I love to blame my Dad for my propensity to finish my work just-in-time for a deadline, since I have memories of him hunched over a typewriter late at night, furiously finishing a story the night before it was due.
But since I am 41 years old, that is a bit of a cop-out since I have had plenty of time to establish my own habits. Not to mention that my sister saw the same thing and is always on time or early with everything she does. So much for unproven genetic theories. (It doesn’t mean I don’t tease my Dad about it whenever I get the chance)
Despite the patterns of procrastination you grew up around, there is a wonderful benefit in establishing clear, specific, real deadlines as a way to get things done. When you have a real deadline:
- Priorities become instantly clear. That which absolutely doesn’t have to get done won’t.
- You get a rush of creative energy since your focus is not distracted by ten other things.
- You reign in expectations for perfection, since you don’t have endless time to tweak and edit your work.
Establishing real deadlines as an entrepreneur can be tricky, since some things you have to complete are not related to a client deliverable or reporting requirement. How can you create deadlines for "improvement" or "enhancement" activities such as:
- Updating or upgrading your website or blog
- Creating new products or programs
- Writing articles or other marketing activities
Here are some suggestions:
- Participate in a class or group coaching program which includes a specific deadline for a specific deliverable. Right now, I am enrolled in The Product Factory, which is a 3-month program that gives guidance and structure for creating information products. After procrastinating to create a product for about 2 years, I am actually a hair away from releasing my first product, an audio program. (I will announce it here soon – can’t wait!) I was motivated by the promise of getting extra exposure for the product by a mailing to 50,000 people from the course instructors Michael Port and Mitch Meyerson, but perhaps more importantly, out of loyalty to my working group of 25 peers that are doing the same thing as I am. There is a healthy competitive spirit that emerges in me when I see peers getting things done, and done well.
- Hire someone to work with you to complete the task. If you are paying someone else to work with you, you will feel more accountable to get it done. You are also more likely to define specific tasks, responsibilities and sub-deadlines, which will move things along quicker.
- Announce your intentions in a public forum. Tell your blog or ezine readers when you are launching your new product, or overhauling your website. If you really want to freak yourself out, send a press release to someplace like PRWeb announcing big changes at a specific date. (We all know that PR folks hate "product announcement" press releases, so make it a good, newsworthy one)
- Work with a mastermind buddy. If you don’t want to invest the time or money in a program, identify a peer that has a similar goal of project completion who is willing to check in once a week to keep progress going. If you are an indie software developer type, you could look at something like the Business of Software Forum for good peers, and if you are a coach or consultant type, look for something like The Coaching Forum (which I just found by doing a quick google on "coaching forums") I recommend choosing a mastermind buddy who is motivated and who you know has gotten things done in the past. I also recommend choosing someone you respect, as once again, a bit of healthy competition is good for the energy level. I started working with my friend Philippa Kennealy as a mastermind partner, and was really impressed with her level of supportiveness and productivity (she totally blew me out of the water).
- Enter a contest. There are a lot of cool contests like "best blog," "most innovative product" or "best marketing campaign." Look for one related to your enhancement project, and this can give you great incentive to do good work. I entered a website design contest with Robert Middleton a couple of years ago, which was instrumental in helping me complete an overhaul to my website (and I won second place — not bad!).
- Get pregnant. I’m telling you, I have finished more things in this last month of pregnancy than in the prior 8 months combined. The great thing about a pregnancy deadline is that it is totally unpredictable, so you can’t screech right up to the last minute since it could come a month early or a week late. You may all laugh at me, but in the next week, I aim to: wrap and launch my product, write a delectable secret guest post (can’t wait to tell you who for, but that will come soon), complete and record a podcast, write a review of my buddy Ramit’s latest book, write and send my monthly ezine (which is 2 weeks late – I am combining Aug and Sept) and write a "static blog post" that will sit at the top of my blog for the couple of weeks or however long it takes that I will be indisposed with new motherhood (I would like to say that I will take 6 months off of all work including blogging to devote all my energy to my family, but I would be lying. Blogging is like therapy for me, so you can bet that after a few weeks of diapers and round-the-clock-feedings, I will want to focus on something else for an hour or two a day. No promises, just a prediction!). I realize that for some of you, due to your gender, biological clock or lack of fondness for children that pregnancy may be out. But for the eager and fertile among you, get busy!
I suppose that there are a group of you who are totally motivated, hard-working and productive and don’t need to play tricks on yourself to get things done. But for the rest of you perfection-challenged folks (like me), try these tips and see if they help.
And please add your own in the comments below!