How To Set Deadlines You Can Keep

It takes more than just having realistic expectations.

How To Set Deadlines You Can Keep
Photo by Max Ilienerwise on Unsplash

It takes more than just having realistic expectations.

You know you have the potential to reach great heights, but right now, you have constraints that hold you back from reaching where you believe you are meant to be.

You wish you could have the best of both worlds: to enjoy some “me time” during the day and get your job done, all the while putting in effort into your passion, your side hustle, to be one day able to switch tracks.

What if I told you it is possible to excel both at your job and your side hustle, all the while making the most of your me-time?

The secret to achieving that sweet spot is to strike for abundance, not balance. And to set deadlines you can actually stick to. This article is about how you can set achievable deadlines and get the most out of the time allotted to you.

Plan Your Day on the Previous Night

There used to be a time when I used to plod on cluelessly through life. I knew what tasks needed to be completed, but since they were at the back of my mind, on most days, I forgot about them.

I used to convince myself that since I only had five or six goals for the day, I don’t need to write them down to remember. Nothing could have been a more self-sabotaging lie than this!

There used to be moments when I had a false sense of accomplishment (because I couldn’t remember what else needed to be done), and couldn’t think of what else to do with my time. As a so-called reward, I used to start scrolling through social media. Over the years, I must have lost of hundreds, probably thousands of hours wasting time, because I couldn’t recall what else I had on my agenda for the day.

Journalling came as a much-needed respite. Once I started planning my day on the previous night, I was able to not only objectively look at my goals, but also have an upper hand at tackling them without pressurizing myself.

Make a pact with yourself. Whenever you retire for the day, spend ten minutes writing in your journal about the most important tasks you plan to accomplish on the next day.

Journalling before going to bed is a fantastic habit that has two benefits:

  1. It helps you reflect on the day gone by and understand what tasks you accomplished and what remains to be done.
  2. When you wake up the next morning, you won’t have a blank mind. Having a list of things to get done before time’s up will put you in a mindset that will help you make productive use of the day.

For the extra push

If you want to take it a step further, you can also schedule the tasks according to the time of the day. For example, I make a detailed routine for the next day, including writing in detail about what tasks I need to get done in the morning, and which tasks can be tackled later in the evening and night.

That way, there won’t be a single moment in the day when your mind is blank and you start rewarding yourself with unproductive tasks like mindless scrolling through social media.

Set a Routine According to Your Habits

You must have heard it over and over again that the mornings are the most productive times of the day and you can only achieve success if you are an early riser.

Sure, there must be millions of people who achieved success by waking up early, but, I am not one of them. I tried waking up at 5 AM because some self-help book told me so, but, I was miserable, sleep-deprived, and found myself plodding on through the day like a zombie — devoid of energy and motivation.

It is only when I accepted the fact that I am not a morning person and it is okay to work at other times of the day when I could finally get myself out of this trap of expectations I had gotten myself into.

I understood that nights (especially, the five or six hours after dinner) are the most productive time of the day for me, and it is okay if I wake up late, as long as I am getting work done.

When you are making a routine for your week or month, don’t set it according to what someone else has prescribed. Instead, take into account your habits and productivity levels during different times of the day, and schedule your tasks accordingly.

When you are making a routine, do not follow a prescribed format that has been deemed effective by thousands of users. Chart your own schedule that revolves around your convenience, and you’ll find yourself happier and more productive, without compromising on the things that keep you happy.

Keep in mind the non-negotiables

Clearly demarcate which parts of your life are absolutely non-negotiable, and design your daily routine around them.

For me, it’s important to sleep eight hours each night, spend at least one hour on myself (reading, watching a movie, etc.), and discuss ideas with my boyfriend over phonecalls. These are my non-negotiables, and no matter how busy I am, I never compromise on them.

And so, my routine is always made keeping these in mind, so I don’t feel suffocated or overworked by the end of the day.

Factor in Distractions

One of the major reasons I wasn’t able to stick to the routines I made earlier was because I used to be over-ambitious, and not take into consideration the possible distractions that might arise.

For example, earlier on, I used to make plans that I would wake up at 10 AM and start working from 11 AM. But, when I lived with my parents, this wasn’t possible as they expected me to spend time with them after breakfast, and also got me engaged in some household chores. As a result, my schedule for the entire day got messed up and I kept feeling guilty.

While setting deadlines, it is important to factor in distractions; to make your routine flexible enough to let you focus on the important tasks without losing sight of the end goal.

Maintain A Habit Tracker

Celebrate your small successes and keep track of your goals. If necessary, take a print-out of a calendar and stick it on your workplace so it is never out of your sight when you are working.

First, you need to identify the habits that are important enough for you to track. For me, these were-

  1. How many words I wrote (on Medium or for my book)
  2. How many papers I reviewed (or how much progress I made in my research project)
  3. How many calories I consumed and burned

Once you zero in on your preferred yardstick of productivity, you can find a way to keep track of them daily.

When you can put a check on how efficiently you have stuck to your habits, you get a kick out of looking at your tracker, feeling that you have accomplished something.

Closing Notes

It is possible to have a family, a job, and a side hustle, and have all of them performing at their highest efficiency. All it takes is proper planning and smart handling and execution of deadlines. In his brilliant book, The 10x Rule, bestselling author and sales trainer, Grant Cardone, refutes the concept of “balance” and urges people to strive for “abundance” instead.

“As far as I’m concerned, it’s pointless for people to worry about balance. The question they should be asking is “How can I have it all in abundance?” I personally am not interested in balance; I am interested in abundance in every area!”

Summing up, here are the three things you can do to set deadlines you can actually achieve without stressing too much:

  1. Journal for five minutes each night before sleeping. Plan your next day on the previous night.
  2. Set a routine according to your habits. Clearly demarcate your non-negotiables and factor in the possible distractions. There is no point being over-ambitious in your planning if it leaves you with guilt by the end of the day.
  3. Maintain a habit tracker where you can physically scribble down how well you managed to stick to your habits on each day.

If you liked this story, here are a few others you might enjoy-

How To Turn Difficult Times into Opportunities for Personal Growth
Lessons from experts on how to be resilient and bounce back from the challenges life throws at you
7 Limiting Self-Beliefs You Need to Let Go of Right Now
#1: You don’t have to be perfect in whatever you do

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