Deadlines force you to act

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It’s easy to say “I don’t want to do it today, I’ll do it tomorrow.”

It’s also easy say “that thing you asked me to do — I’ll take care of it.”

It’s a lot harder to wiggle out of your commitments if you say (to your whole team) that the launch is going to happen on Tuesday night at 7pm.  Going to happen, not just planned.  People can do amazing things especially if you encourage them to say out loud what they’re going to do, when they’re going to do it, and how they’ll know that they succeeded.

You might think that this is a discipline that only works for software teams building products in an Agile environment, but surprise!  It works for much more than that.

Saying what you’re going to do

Be specific – state that “I’m going to send a survey to the customers who have tried our product in the last 30 days” or “I’m going to vacuum the living room” or “I will walk 3 miles today.”  Be as detailed as possible, but don’t get hung up on the fact that you haven’t figured out exactly what you’re going to do yet.  Pick the smallest big description of what you can do, and make sure you say  it out loud to another person.

Say when you’re going to finish

Setting a deadline is a key factor to make you accountable to delivering what you said you were going to deliver at the time you’re going to deliver it.  This one’s easy – say out loud when you’re going to be done, and set one more more intermediate check-ins where you can say (as early as possible) whether you’re on track or not.  Be as accurate and honest as you can – remember, you’re setting a commitment that others will measure.

How will you know that you’ve succeeded?

If you don’t know how to measure when you’re done, you’ve got a problem 😉  Set some goal that will tell you that you’ve succeeded.  If it’s too hard, call it a stretch goal — but make sure you know that by someone else’s assessment (“the widget does x”, “the press release was written for review”, “the living room is clean”) that you can call the job done.

Deadlines are the first step to knowing that you’re done — they tell you when the job needs to be finished.  And you also need to make sure that you have a good idea of what you’re going to do and how you’ll know that you’ve succeeded.  What are you going to plan (and do) today?

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