When There Is No Deadline

clocks spinning around

I frequently hear people say that they work well under pressure. As a deadline nears, they kick into gear and “get it done,” often in the final hours.

Unfortunately, many of the things we wish to do in life don’t come with deadlines. Pursuits that fall into this category include:

  • Getting into shape
  • Organizing a home/office
  • Developing a skill
  • Learning a language
  • Getting a new/better job
  • Eating healthier
  • Quitting a bad habit
  • Improving work/life balance

Often, we greatly desire to do something, but in the absence of a firm deadline, we fail to follow through. Furthermore, we may admire or envy other people’s self discipline and internalize a sense of failure or worthlessness.

Rather than beat yourself up, it is wise to acknowledge that everyone has both strengths and weaknesses. Each of us finds some things to be easy and others to be more difficult. Achieving goals often comes down to identifying “areas for growth” in our lives, and then putting systems and tools in place to help us overcome any hurdles.

For those who struggle with motivation and self-accountability, the key is to add an external pressure where one does not naturally exist. Introducing an outside motivator provides both a payoff for success and a consequence for inaction.

There are a few ways to do this…

Designate an Accountability Partner

  • Ask someone to hold you accountable to take specific action
  • Grant this person permission to check in with you at specific intervals
  • Offer specific questions you wish to be asked
  • Meet regularly face-to-face (FaceTime or Skype also work)

Payoff=> Delivering a positive report, external validation and affirmation

Consequence for Inaction=> Awkwardness, letting someone else down 

Join an Outside Group

  • Take a class
  • Sign up for lessons
  • Attend a webinar or lecture
  • Join a support group

Payoff=> new skills, concrete direction, encouragement

Consequence for Inaction=> Peer pressure, wasted time

Invest in Professional Help

  • Life coach
  • Professional organizer
  • Personal trainer
  • Nutritionist
  • Weight loss program
  • Secretary
  • Virtual assistant
  • Accountant
  • Headhunter

Payoff=> Outside motivation, direction and encouragement

Consequence for Inaction=> Wasted money

Reward Yourself

  • Designate rewards for progress made
  • Focus on small steps rather than an end goal

Payoff=> Enjoying something special

Consequence for Inaction=> Denying yourself something you would like

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It is both common and normal to need a push to get moving, even toward ends we truly desire. Adult life is frequently so full of “musts” that we lack the time and energy to invest in anything that isn’t required. In addition, venturing beyond the familiar and known is uncomfortable, rendering us timid and fearful of failure.

Fortunately, in areas where inherent deadlines or pressures do not exist, we can artificially establish structure to nudge us forward.

Have any of these techniques helped you achieve a goal?