To achieve success, create a deadline

To achieve success, create a deadline

  • Have you been toying with a goal, but haven’t made a start on it yet?
  • Do you sometimes put off progressing a project because more pressing things take priority?

Most of us procrastinate. In his TED talk, Inside the Mind of a Master Procrastinator, Tim Urban takes a humorous look at this very human behaviour and delivers a serious message, too. If you’ve got 14 minutes, watch it now.

Once we’ve noticed that we’re procrastinating what can we do about it? To achieve success, create a deadline. The power of it is in the word ‘compelling’. Once we’ve committed to do something by a certain date or time, we’re much more likely to actually do it.

This is perhaps the simplest and most powerful aspect of coaching: accountability. The coach holds us accountable and we can have a horrid, squirmy feeling if we’re about to show up to our next session having not done what we said we’d do.

However, sometimes the thought of admitting failure to our coach isn’t enough to motivate us. What then?

Make it more compelling. Invite people to a launch, publish the 1st date of your new workshop, announce to your customers the date that the beta version of your new product will be available… all this, before you’re ready. Then, you’re forced to take action. People are depending on you. They’ve already paid. Too late to back out now!

There’s also something hugely freeing in ‘good enough’*. Without the luxury of endless tinkering and perfecting time, we become more efficient—more creative, even. It’s got to be ready by Tuesday, so it just is.

(*By ‘good enough’, I mean precisely that: good, fit for purpose, something that will delight. I’m not suggesting we short-change our customers, team, or audience with something that is sub-standard, just that we don’t need to spend a decade making it perfect.)

Once, when a client kept not completing an action, I asked him, “How can we make this more compelling?” He decided he’d transfer funds into my bank account, which I would ‘hold ransom’ until he’d completed his agreed action. The sting in the tail—and the thing that made it really compelling for him—was that there was an expiration date: if he didn’t let me know that he’d completed within 2 weeks, I was to donate those funds to his least favourite political party (UKIP). Brilliant! I’d never have dreamed up this torturous idea. It really worked for him. He completed his action within the time—and of course I returned the funds.

Your assignment:

Set a compelling deadline or event. Make it truly embarrassing or costly to not be ready. Get as many people as possible to hold you accountable. Just do it!

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