As an entrepreneur, deadlines are important for helping you achieve both large and small goals.
However, you won’t instantly find success in the world of business by just setting arbitrary deadlines for all of your projects. Your deadlines need to set you up for success—they must be strategic.
Strategic deadlines are designed to help you move closer to your goals every day, week and month in a way that keeps you experiencing small wins along the way, rather than simply painting a huge target months away that just adds to your stress levels.
Deadlines are easy to hate, but here are five reasons why strategic deadlines are important, particularly for entrepreneurs.
1. Hold You Accountable for Your Own Goals.
Very few things have the attention-grabbing power of deadlines when it comes to setting a purpose and defining the timeline for anything important that needs to be done.
Whether a deadline has been set by a customer, manager or yourself, it places all stakeholders on the same page, working towards a common objective. If you give yourself a personal deadline, you create a critical metric by which your action (or inaction) may be deemed a failure or a success. In these situations, only you have the sole responsibility for the outcome.
2. Keep Momentum Moving in a Positive Direction.
Because the benefits of achieving success by your definition often far outweighs that of failure, people who set strategic deadlines tend to work towards meeting that deadline. The closer a deadline gets, the more agitated or motivated people get. When people are agitated or motivated, they tend to move and take action.
3. Spur Innovation and Creativity.
For success-driven individuals, a deadline often becomes an engaging challenge and an opportunity to generate value. Whether your deadline is for delivering client work well ahead of schedule or to submit an end result that far exceeds the expectations of your customers, success-driven entrepreneurs will use deadlines as a pivot towards excellence.
Well-known leaders like Steve Jobs was notorious for setting “impossible deadlines” to bring out the best, most creative energy in his employees.
4. Help You Prioritize and Focus Only on What’s Most Important.
Deadlines directly impact your time – and everyone else’. Therefore, they force you to organize your tasks in order of priority, so that you’re only working on objectives that move you closer to your most meaningful goals. You have to learn how to focus in on your key milestones and just say no to the rest. Otherwise, you’ll be swamped by sifting through your email inbox, scrolling your Facebook feed, or getting roped into other responsibilities that’ll cause you to deliver poorly planned and executed results on what really matters most.
In other words, if you don’t ruthlessly prioritize how you’re spending your time—which deadlines for you to do—you’ll be a mediocre performer and your deadlines will come and go right by you.
5. Keep You Honest and Reluctant to Make Promises You Can’t Keep
Deadlines are for everyone’s benefit but you don’t have to say “yes” to all of them. In fact, if you recognize that a proposed deadline is too unrealistic for you to be able to deliver quality work, it’s your responsibility to push back and make sure you won’t sacrifice end results in exchange for rushing to get your deliverable shipped.
On the flip side, some deadlines are too lax, which will allow you time to slack off and not force yourself to get creative about how you’ll need to go about achieving your goal. Assess your strengths and weaknesses relative to any deadline being proposed to you and within your own internal deadline-setting process as well. Always go for the sweet spot where deadlines spur you to action, and where they encourage creativity, not cramming.
6. Increase Your Confidence.
Consistently meeting deadlines has the fringe benefit of making you and your team more confident in the long run. The confidence you stand to gain by shipping products and getting your creations out into the real world enables you not only to take on more customers or responsibilities in the future, but also to explore new approaches, techniques and to advance your game even further.
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