Deadlines: you either love ‘em or leave ‘em, but you can’t live without them. Like meats or meds, they have delivery and expiration dates that define them. Live within their parameters and you have the making for a healthy management.

How you view deadlines will determine how and when your products or projects will emerge from obscurity to completion. Let’s think about what they are and why they deserve a little respect.

  • Deadlines are friends. You created them to assist you. Treat them with respect and they will be loyal to you. Ignore them and they may haunt you. They are not there to harass you; they are there to help you. Like a friend, you check on them, give them space, and remember their birthdates and anniversaries.
  • Deadlines are property lines. They are the imaginary spaces where your ideas and ideals live. As property lines, they need to be detailed, recorded, and guarded from intruders—such as time-wasters or attention-grabbers.
  • Deadlines are destination points. Like entering a travel location on your GPS, you create a deadline so you can journey toward it. There may be “points of interest” along the way, but their destination is your end goal.
  • Deadlines are managers. You gave them permission to keep you on the straight and narrow. In return, they give you friendly reminders of neglect, lack of focus, or impulsive behavior. You don’t need to fear them. They are not immovable. And if they are not flexible, they may need to be replaced.
  • Deadlines are volunteer staff. You appointed them, not vice versa. They are the stagehands, but you run the show. They embody your vision. You are only bound to them by loyalty. They have no overruling authority.

Create them carefully. Make sure they are within the range of your skills, resources, and available time.

Post them prominently. A major detail may have one or more sub-details. You may even want to list those separately, and complete them separately.

Guard deadlines diligently. They drive important ideas. If your deadlines are still viable, and fit with your action plan, keep them on the top shelf of your mind—and let them propel you to success.

-Stan Toler