Friday, June 22, 2012

The Power of a Deadline...The Importance of a Goal

Photo Courtesy of Free Digital Photos
I just came through a very long, very short deadline.

Within less than one week, I completely read through my 93k novel, editing as I went. Because of certain circumstances I had to knuckle down and get this done ASAP.

Because of how I'm wired, having a deadline energizes me. Knowing when I HAVE to have something done makes me work all the harder to get it finished.

So for me, knowing my novel had to be finished within that one week, I had to get a schedule and stick. to. it.

In the case of short deadlines like these, it's a good idea to not let yourself deviate from your planned goals. On the flip side: set realistic goals. You don't want to so overextend yourself that after one to two days you're just ready to be done.

Make a schedule.

For me that meant editing 50 pages every day. Taking into consideration I wouldn't get to edit like that for two days because of work and having less time over the weekend. But there were days I edited more than 50 pages, making up for the ones I missed.

Take short, short breaks.

It's imperative that when keeping a deadline of this magnitude you take short breaks throughout the day as you are working. For me that meant one or two computer games or one chapter for pleasure. But keep a firm hand on this, and don't let yourself get out of control. ;-) The key to a deadline is focus and personal accountability. I knew if I didn't get those pages done, I'd be sitting in my seat until I did get it done (aka: as long as it takes)...which meant I didn't get as much night-time reading in or actually emerging to see my family.

The same holds true...

...for longer deadlines. Be willing (and even) plan for short breaks, but with the suggestion that you don't do this any longer than a day or two. Whether you are taking a month, two months or even longer to finish a project, give yourself something to reach for and attain along the way. If you're a big picture kind of person, give yourself an end date that you HAVE to meet (again, be realistic, but also challenging, it's how you'll grow.)

For a short-term planner, give yourself a goal you need to meet that week, day or even hour. Mold the deadline to fit who you are.

The difference between goals and deadlines.

If you're a stay at home mom, work outside the home or just frankly a human being who has a bazillion things pulling at your time, consider the difference between a goal and a deadline. Both are extremely helpful, but play two very different roles.

A goal...

Gives you something to attain and work towards, but you might not have an end date. You know on lunch breaks and between soccer practice and dinner, you've got a few minutes to squeeze in a few edits or a hundred words. You have a GOAL to finish XYZ before, say, the end of summer, but you also understand that ABC often gets in the way. However, you are not going to let it stop you from reaching this goal.

Keep your goal always in the front of your mind. Give yourself permission to "fail", but keep pushing forward.

A deadline...

 Is much more strict. You have a start date. You have an end date. And you're going to try your hardest to meet that deadline. You could have something extreme like me with editing my novel in a week. Or you could have something small that you've been wanting to finish and need some motivation.

The key to a deadline is motivation. It's what gets you up in the morning, it's what keeps you up at night. It's the yearning for a sense of accomplishment and one you should never underestimate.

A goal and deadline will often work together in the way a goal gets you started, a deadline makes you finish.

Utilize these tools. Learn to master them and not let them master you. But don't treat them flippantly or with disrespect. Both are powerful motivators and can cause super-human results. ;-)

What about you? Do you like to use a deadline to keep you motivated?


Casey Herringshaw is a homeschool graduate and has been writing since high school. She lives in rural Eastern Oregon in a town more densely populated with cows than people.


Lisa Jordan said...

Loved your differentiating between goal and deadline, Casey. Like you, I'm charged with a deadline. For some reason, my brain tends to go on vacation when I have lots of time to write something, but when the clock is about to strike 12, then my motivation charges forward to get the job done.

Julia M. Reffner said...

I work better with deadlines, too. Writing is easiest to deadline for me, I'm still learning how to deadline edits because I don't really know what I'm doing yet. It still feels a lot more intimidating than writing to me but hopefully I'll reach the point where it won't.

Karen @ a house full of sunshine said...

Wow, what an achievement! Good stuff, Casey!

I'm definitely a deadline girl. I find it very hard to get motivated without one.

Jessica R. Patch said...

Way to go, Casey! I do set deadlines and I'm a freak about meeting them. I'm competitive (even more so with myself if that makes sense).

I like how you explained the diff between goals and deadlines. Great post!

Jeanne T said...

Great post, Casey! I, too, like how you differentiated between a goal and a deadline, even recommending using a goal and setting a deadline. :) I'm learning that I write well with deadlines. Now, like Julia, to figure out how to set goals and deadlines with editing. :)

Mary Vee Writer said...

You have a gift of organization! Even this post is organized clearly, with comparisons and examples. No wonder you meet goals and deadlines. Now I need to use some of that glow myself:)

Jenna K. said...

Great info! I'm in the editing process of my story and I finally got myself to make a deadline...It's coming rather quick...!

Lindsay Harrel said...

Oh yeah. I set deadlines for myself and then tell other people so they hold me accountable. I'm an editor by day, so I'm used to deadlines. It's a place I'm comfortable!

Casey said...

LISA, that sounds like my wiring! ;-) I think it is helpful to be a very self-motivated person and adding a deadline increases that, I think. I'm super excited for your book 2 btw. :-))

JULIA, that's where a great goal comes in. You want to work through your edits (deadline), knowing you want to increase your knowledge of how editing works (goal). Cheering for you!

Casey said...

KAREN, my deadlines always seem to come towards the end of the project. I've set goals, I've been meeting them and now I just want to be done! That's the fun part, I think. :)

JESS, that makes PERFECT sense, because in so many ways that is how I am too. I'm not so competitive against outside issues, but with myself, I'm my own worst enemy. ;-)

Casey said...

JEANNE, editing seems to be the hardest thing to put a goal/deadline on. I think it's probably easier to make a goal, realizing we will continue to learn as we edit and our deadline might be passed--but not for lack of us not trying to meet it! More for the gift of knowing more.

MARY, are you a big term planner or a short term planner? Give yourself little deadline and goals, so you're not overwhelmed and just experiment!

Casey said...

JENNA, oh my goodness, deadlines DO come quick! Keep pushing forward, don't let the fear of failure defeat you. Keep up the good work!

LINDSAY, what a great comfort zone for you! Already having that mindset is awesome.

Cindy R. Wilson said...

Yes, I LOVE deadlines! I wouldn't get anything done without them. That's why I have so many lists - so I know what I want to accomplish and I make myself get it done.

Unknown said...

Deadlines definitely help me--it's the former reporter in me. :) And I like to share my deadlines with others--knowing they know keeps me going. Must be a competitive streak in me or something...or just the value of accountability. :)

Great stuff, Casey!

Joanne Sher said...

Goals, and deadlines, are SOOO helpful to me. I LIVE by them - and they motivate me. And lists.

Sherrinda Ketchersid said...

I need motivation, I suppose, because I am horrible at deadlines and meeting them...especially when I know there is not real consequence. Bleh!

Where is that spirit of self-discipline????

Casey said...

CINDY, I made myself a list for the summer of things I need to get done before ACFW, great motivation!

MELISSA, competitive and accountability are both motivators. :)

Casey said...

JOANNE, do you utilize an accountability partner too? Julia and I do that for each other and it's great knowing someone is cheering for you!

SHERRINDA, I hear ya! But one thing I've figured out about myself is I love the accomplishment of PROVING I can get something done when I said I could. Kind of like racing your own clock. Plus, giving a small reward when you've reached that goal helps too. ;-)

Pepper said...

Oh yeah, I'm charged by deadlines.
In fact, I'm terrified! :-)

Great post, Case.

Misha Gerrick said...

Yes. For extra motivation, I posted a count-down timer to my deadline on my blog. :-D

Casey said...

PEP, I bet you just need a good goal. :-)

MISHA, ooo! If that doesn't keep you writing, I bet nothing will. :)