Setting a goal and achieving it is an amazing accomplishment. However, setting a goal and achieving it within your desired timeline is even better.
After all, you could probably accomplish anything if given enough time. Making a million dollars in one year and making it over 10 years are both admirable, for example, but you’d likely prefer a one-year timeline over the 10-year timeline.
In our 10-part series on goal setting, we’re covering how to set goals like a pro and develop a master plan of action to achieve them — whether in life, career, or business. You can read the previous installment in this series in which we present five simple strategies to prioritize the actions you need to take to reach your goals.
Today, we’re covering the next step of setting effective deadlines for those actions.
Why Goal Deadlines Matter
We’ve all encountered goals that have no timeline. While the lack of urgency that surrounds a goal with no deadline may seem nice, it rarely yields results.
Here are some of the reasons setting deadlines is key to accomplishing your goals:
- Deadlines give you a sense of urgency: A bit of pressure may cause you to feel stressed and anxious, but it can also inspire you to jump into action. Accomplished goal-setters are able to tap into a sense of urgency to remain proactive.
- Deadlines encourage you to schedule: You will need to prioritize whatever action comes next in your schedule, which leaves little room for debate or flexibility.
- Deadlines keep you accountable: If a deadline impacts other people, you have no choice but to act on it or face public humiliation. People tend to go to great lengths to avoid the discomfort of public scrutiny, and this is why deadlines are so important for group projects or goals; team members will experience genuine pain if they let other team members down by missing a deadline.
- Deadlines can motivate you: Deadlines provide you with a consistent feeling of motivation, which can be a powerful tool you can use to continue making progress on your goal.
- Deadlines improve your prioritization skills: You might not have time to do everything on your list. But the actions with deadlines must come first, which makes it easier to prioritize them.
- Deadlines help you avoid pain: One of the reasons deadlines are so effective is that they’re linked to pain or discomfort if you miss them. If you set a deadline, but there are no consequences for missing it, you likely won’t be very motivated to meet that deadline.
Using Goal Deadlines to Beat Procrastination
We’re all prone to procrastination, even if we are otherwise high achievers.
That’s because humans are inherently wired to pursue pleasure and avoid pain. When you’re far from a deadline, you’re more likely to procrastinate because you can find pleasure in doing activities that are unrelated to your goals.
The reason for this stems from the fact that humans are biologically motivated to want immediate gratification.
But once you get closer to your deadline, your motivation switches to avoid the pain of missing your deadline. Thus, you scramble to get all your work done at the last minute.
Some people have no problem operating this way and seemingly thrive on procrastination, leveraging it to motivate them to work faster and more efficiently.
If you’re going to procrastinate mindfully, you must come to terms with the added stress that comes with procrastination.
The closer you get to your deadline, the more stress you’ll experience, especially if you’ve taken little to no action toward your goal.
Some people are fine with taking on that additional stress of procrastination, but the effort they put forth to achieve a goal remains the same, whether or not they procrastinate.
Of course, one way to avoid stress and effort is to procrastinate on goals without deadlines. But the consequence there is never accomplishing your goals.
3 Steps to Determine Appropriate Goal Deadlines
Setting deadlines is a simple enough task but it can alter the course of your goals.
That’s why it’s important to remember humans’ tendency to pursue instant gratification and avoid pain as you set deadlines.
Essentially, you need to set deadlines that provide you with enough time to accomplish your goals without experiencing stress. You also can’t set goals so far out that you have room to procrastinate on them.
Here’s the process we follow at Arootah when it comes to setting deadlines around goals and the action items we need to complete to support those goals:
- Set deadlines for goals: Your overall goal needs to have a deadline. All actions you take to achieve those goals must occur between the start line and the deadline.
- Set deadlines for actions: Start by setting deadlines for only the two highest-priority action items. By focusing on only these actions, you can begin to make progress on your goal right away.
- Set consequences: Start thinking about both accountability strategies you can use for support as you work toward your goals and positive reinforcements for completing them on time.
The Bottom Line
You can use expensive planners or technology designed to help keep you productive, but it also takes a basic understanding of human motivation to achieve your goals; this means setting deadlines that balance the twin motivators of pain and gratification to keep yourself motivated and accountable.
Deadlines are just one important piece in goal-setting. If you’re seeking a more holistic approach when it comes to your goal-setting activities, learn this process directly from Arootah CEO and Founder Rich Bello by grabbing your free copy of The 10 Step Arootah Success Formula. This playbook contains a simple, straightforward process you can use to achieve your goals.