Deadlines – Your Best Friend or Your Worst Enemy?

Deadlines can be your best friend.

“Every morning in Africa, a gazelle wakes up. It knows it must outrun the fastest lion or it will be killed. Every morning in Africa, a lion wakes up. It knows it must run faster than the slowest gazelle, or it will starve. It doesn’t matter whether you’re a lion or a gazelle— when the sun comes up, you’d better be running.” Roger Bannister – first man to break the four-minute mile.

Deadlines are you best friend at times – For example, I recently went back to school and finished up my MBA in Healthcare Management. I did it while continuing to work more than full time, writing my books, articles, and continuing to be the best father and husband I know how to be. I couldn’t have done it without meeting deadlines.

There are a tremendous number of deadlines involved in obtaining an MBA. If you’ve ever taken Master’s level courses you know how very expensive they can be. You don’t mess around with missing a deadline when it is going to cost you from $800 to $2200 per credit. I call this the “surgical approach to time management.” If like a surgeon performing an emergency surgery, you know you have to get it right or else…you tend to get it right.

Given these circumstances you in fact, embrace your deadlines. You put them on your calendar and try to get your work done several days in advance.

That was the case when I was studying nursing. I would finish my assignments in advance, put them by my front door, then place them in my car as soon as possible. If you miss a nursing one assignment or don’t complete a paper on time, you may have to repeat the whole semester again. This is true even if the dog really did eat your homework. When it comes to patient care and healthcare work in general you have to either tame your dog or get rid of it. No excuses.

We all have a natural tendency to be sluggish and lazy. If you watch a pride lions, you will see that they lay around most of the time.However, they then exert an incredible amount of energy when the need to catch their prey. They have to eat. We also have to eat, but we don’t have to catch our prey. So, we have essentially eliminated the occasional hunt for food from the human ecosystem. Instead, we have substituted this occasional hunt with goals, routines, and habits.

Real goal achievement involves real unbreakable deadlines. We simply cannot effectively and efficiently achieve our goals without deadlines. Persistence helps, but it is no substitute for a real deadline. And unfortunately, as a species we are horrible at setting and completing self-imposed deadlines. Thus, as a Henry David Thoreau said, ‘Most men and women lead lives of quiet desperation and go to the grave with their song still in them.’

Am I telling you that it is not your fought when you do not meet your goals? Well…yes and no. The absolute truth is that you probably will never lose that 20 pounds of fat, get ripped, get rich, get an MBA, buy that house, start that business, write that book, increase your sales by 20%, or any other life long goal without some help. And by help I mean a mentor, a coach, a guru, an instructor, a drill Sargent….one or several people who hold you to a firm deadline.

Don’t believe me? Try this…write down your top five goals and find someone with experience and know-how to coach you and hold you to your deadlines. Agree on the deadlines and try to hit them. Have a weekly call with this person, it is worth the expense. If you quit before finishing your task or goal, well you know that you are a quitter. Don’t worry we are all quitters in some form or another (usually at multiple levels). You have to acknowledge, live with, and work with this fact. But most importantly, you will know that the person or goal you chose was not the right fit for you. Start all over, chose another person to be your coach, mentor, guru, etc. Try it again. If it doesn’t work the second time, modify your goal. Break it up in to smaller chunks or change it all together then get another mentor.

Never be without a good coach or mentor and never be without several firm deadlines. You will be glad you followed this approach.

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Good Luck,


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