Deadlines: Motivate, don’t procrastinate

It’s a good thing there’s one extra day in February this year; it’s a great time to squeeze in those last minute deadlines.

Don’t get me wrong; I am all about meeting and exceeding deadlines. Submitting work early, proofreading it more times than I can count on two hands, and knowing that I’ve given it my all is very rewarding.

Tonight I needed to meet my own deadline. A personal deadline. A blog deadline.

My original goal was to publish one blog post per week. Then I realized that wasn’t realistic due to an early sleep schedule, gym schedule and nightly series-watching schedule. So I’ve bumped it down from one post per week to one post per month.

By setting a personal goal, we hold ourselves accountable. The only person we have to depend on is ourselves. There are going to be roadblocks that get in the way of our personal goals. Maybe we feel too tired to put in all of our effort. Maybe it was a hectic day at work and we just want to unwind. Or maybe we just don’t know how to achieve our personal goals.

It’s been a very busy month. But that’s no excuse for me to wait until the last day of the month to write this post.

I remember my sophomore year of college when I was just easing out of my Psychology major and deciding between an English and Journalism major. I joined the newspaper staff that year, took different courses to pinpoint my interests, and most importantly, I learned about deadlines.

Story ideas were pitched Friday mornings during our newspaper meetings. We’d split up into groups based upon which section we wanted to write for: News, Features, Opinions, Entertainment or Sports. The stories were due the following Thursday at 5 p.m.

I wrote my first article about a social justice club’s coffee house event. The event was held on a Tuesday, the week of the article due date, which gave me just two days to write the piece. I wasn’t too worried about it at the time. I got my interviews in before the event, and I wrote down a few notes during the event.

Two nights later, I proudly submitted my first-ever newspaper article at 4:59 p.m. that Thursday. I say proudly because it was my first article. However, I was freaking out at the same time. My hands were shaking as I furiously typed, adding every little detail, every little quotation possible. I was afraid I was going to miss the 5 p.m. deadline.

I made the deadline– by one minute. At 5 o’clock, I shut my computer and shut down my writing brain for the rest of the night. That was the last time I ever submitted my work so dangerously close to the deadline.

Although I later learned those deadlines were not as dire as I thought, I still found more enjoyment in finishing my work before the deadline. I’d pitch my story, complete my interviews the same day or the day after, and write the article almost immediately after the interview. Then I’d go back, proofread, listen to interview recordings once more, and submit the article.

The newspaper articles were not graded. But I graded myself on the quality once this became a personal goal. I moved up in the newspaper staff going from a writer to an assistant section editor to the editor-in-chief. I made it happen by setting my own realistic goals, progressing at my own pace.

At the end of the day, we should submit our best work and set our own standards. We should be proud of what we create and how we create it.

Make a personal goal happen by setting realistic deadlines for yourself. Life happens. If you can’t make a personal deadline, then adjust the deadline. Don’t be too hard on yourself. Don’t procrastinate. Most importantly, motivate yourself and hold yourself accountable.

~K

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