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Within less than one week, I completely read through my 93k novel, editing as I went. Because of certain circumstances I had to knuckle down and get this done ASAP.
Because of how I'm wired, having a deadline energizes me. Knowing when I HAVE to have something done makes me work all the harder to get it finished.
So for me, knowing my novel had to be finished within that one week, I had to get a schedule and stick. to. it.
In the case of short deadlines like these, it's a good idea to not let yourself deviate from your planned goals. On the flip side: set realistic goals. You don't want to so overextend yourself that after one to two days you're just ready to be done.
Make a schedule.
For me that meant editing 50 pages every day. Taking into consideration I wouldn't get to edit like that for two days because of work and having less time over the weekend. But there were days I edited more than 50 pages, making up for the ones I missed.
Take short, short breaks.
It's imperative that when keeping a deadline of this magnitude you take short breaks throughout the day as you are working. For me that meant one or two computer games or one chapter for pleasure. But keep a firm hand on this, and don't let yourself get out of control. ;-) The key to a deadline is focus and personal accountability. I knew if I didn't get those pages done, I'd be sitting in my seat until I did get it done (aka: as long as it takes)...which meant I didn't get as much night-time reading in or actually emerging to see my family.
The same holds true...
...for longer deadlines. Be willing (and even) plan for short breaks, but with the suggestion that you don't do this any longer than a day or two. Whether you are taking a month, two months or even longer to finish a project, give yourself something to reach for and attain along the way. If you're a big picture kind of person, give yourself an end date that you HAVE to meet (again, be realistic, but also challenging, it's how you'll grow.)
For a short-term planner, give yourself a goal you need to meet that week, day or even hour. Mold the deadline to fit who you are.
The difference between goals and deadlines.
If you're a stay at home mom, work outside the home or just frankly a human being who has a bazillion things pulling at your time, consider the difference between a goal and a deadline. Both are extremely helpful, but play two very different roles.
Gives you something to attain and work towards, but you might not have an end date. You know on lunch breaks and between soccer practice and dinner, you've got a few minutes to squeeze in a few edits or a hundred words. You have a GOAL to finish XYZ before, say, the end of summer, but you also understand that ABC often gets in the way. However, you are not going to let it stop you from reaching this goal.
Keep your goal always in the front of your mind. Give yourself permission to "fail", but keep pushing forward.
Is much more strict. You have a start date. You have an end date. And you're going to try your hardest to meet that deadline. You could have something extreme like me with editing my novel in a week. Or you could have something small that you've been wanting to finish and need some motivation.
The key to a deadline is motivation. It's what gets you up in the morning, it's what keeps you up at night. It's the yearning for a sense of accomplishment and one you should never underestimate.
A goal and deadline will often work together in the way a goal gets you started, a deadline makes you finish.
Utilize these tools. Learn to master them and not let them master you. But don't treat them flippantly or with disrespect. Both are powerful motivators and can cause super-human results. ;-)
What about you? Do you like to use a deadline to keep you motivated?
Casey Herringshaw is a homeschool graduate and has been writing since high school. She lives in rural Eastern Oregon in a town more densely populated with cows than people.