In my last post I noted that it is difficult for me to set my own deadlines. A friend of mine read this and remarked teasingly that I shouldn’t tell this to any future employers. This confused me. Yes, it made sense that no employer would want a worker who couldn’t meet deadlines, but I had never had this problem at work.
In fact I’ve been rather good at meeting work or school deadlines. My track record has been clean, showing up on time, turning in assignments, getting things done. I never asked for extensions or ignored due dates. But this was all in my work persona. For some reason those traits and habits aren’t translating into my day-to-day life.
Continuing my self-examination, I started wondering why this is. What are the conditions of a deadline that make it concrete in my mind? Andhow can I make the goals I set for myself better fit this criteria? As always I have spent some time sitting with these thoughts and come up with a few answers that might help me understand the issue.
Expectation of completion – the first criteria jumped out immediately, an authority figure. Someone I respect who holds the expectation that I will get done whatever job they’ve asked. It gives me a sense of accountability that I have been tasked with something and that someone will know how and when I get it done.
So when it’s just me how can I set up that same sense of expectation? One strategy I’ve devised is to share my goals with other people. To write them down, say them out loud, post them in a blog, whatever. Some way to let at least one other person know and increase that pressure of expectation.
Dependence on completion- this was an especially important motivation for me at my last job, where ten people depended on me to keep my deadlines , so that their housing, food, and work schedules stayed in order. If not turning in my report meant someone in the office couldn’t get their work done on time that motivated me. If not grocery shopping meant putting strain on the food availability for my team that motivated me. Now, if I don’t apply for that job today, I’m the only one affected. I am more likely to make exceptions, procrastinate.
A possible solution to this might be to envision the longer chain of effects meeting or not meeting my deadlines might have. Sure if I don’t apply for a job today the sun will probably still rise tomorrow but if I don’t apply for jobs then I won’t get a job and without a paycheck I can’t make
rent. That would certainly affect my eleven housemates. And not in a good way.
Commitment to completion – Often times I find that when I set personal goals I either set the bar super low so that if I ignore it I can make up for it later or crazy high so that if I don’t reach it I won’t feel bad because it was a stretch in the first place. I can’t say that this is a healthy way to approach goal setting. I’m already making room for myself to blow it off or fail. I haven’t committed to my own success.
Now that sounds like a self-help-book line if I’ve ever heard one but unfortunately I think it’s the truth. Getting over this particular hurdle in goal making will require more than just a casual reassessment of my goal setting tendencies. In essence it will require me to start putting stock in myself and taking my own deadlines quite a bit more seriously.
Though these tactics may not be bulletproof and I still may spend some days wrapped up reading a good book rather than writing my own, I think that they will help me change my thinking around setting goals for myself.
So in the spirit of honoring my own deadlines I will now return to working on the book manuscript I aim to have finished by the end of this year, Imaginary Me. And anyone reading this can feel free to help hold me to it.