Impose a Deadline

I recently took a position with a new organization that requires a specific professional certification within 6 month of my hire date as a condition of employment.  Failure to obtain this certification within the designated time will result in termination.  Period.

Roger that!

I’ve been in this new position for 4 weeks and have been studying a little every day for the certification exam, and making good progress.  However, in an effort to make sure I’m focused in my study, I imposed a deadline by registering to take the exam on August 18, 2016.

For me, having a deadline causes me to be more focused and purposeful in my study, because I know the test is only a couple of weeks away, and I need to take steps today so I can be ready when August 18th arrives.

It is easy to slack off or lose focus during the pursuit of a goal if we don’t have a very specific target in mind.  Consider the following goals many people have:

  • To get out of debt
  • To lose weight
  • To start a business
  • To write a book

My question to people that state these and other goals to me is, “By when?”

Without a deadline in mind, it’s just a desire or a wish that may or may not ever be started, let alone completed.  If I ask someone the “By when” question and they instantly give me a date, the probability of them being successful is quite high.  They have a hard deadline they are working toward, rather than just a lofty dream.  A deadline provides the motivation, the game clock on the scoreboard, to let you know if you’re on the track toward reaching your goal.

Do you have a goal or objective you’re working on that could use the boost of a deadline?  If so, set yourself a deadline and use it to help you make consistent daily progress in the direction of your goal.

There’s a System for That

Do you suffer from any of the following:

  • A cluttered house
  • Forgetting important dates or events
  • An out of control email in box
  • Not knowing what you need when you’re at the grocery store until AFTER you get home
  • A car full of junk
  • Not knowing where you put your keys
  • Forgetting the login and password you picked for a specific website

If so, it may be the result of not having systems in place for certain areas of your life.  What I mean by a system is simply a set of behaviors you regularly perform for a specific situation.  Here’s what a system might look like in a real-life scenario.

Let’s say my house is always cluttered and messy, which causes me to feel frustrated.  A system for keeping my house from being cluttered would involve adopting and maintaining behaviors like:

  • Assigning a specific place for each of my items
  • When I’m done using something, instead of laying it on the first convenient place I can think of, I will put it where it belongs (e.g. Dishwasher, laundry bin, closed, garbage, recycle, closet, etc.)
  • I will regularly go through my things and get rid of anything that I no longer use so that my house stays free from unneeded items.

A system like this identifies clear behaviors that will yield the outcome you desire.

When I don’t have systems in place, or don’t follow the systems I do have, I tend to do what’s most convenient at the time.  Operating by convenience rather than by established systems tends to cause parts of my life to feel out of control and chaotic.  Without specific systems in place, anything goes!  Clothes go on the floor, dishes stay in the sink, and important things become forgotten or left undone.

Do you have areas in your life that would benefit from some new systems?  If so, start with just one area you’d like to improve and do the following:

  • Envision the outcome you want
  • Create a system of behavior that will achieve that outcome
  • Work the system

Chaos and disorder are almost always the result of a system that needs to be put into place or a bad system that needs to be revamped.  Start adding systems to your life to remove chaos and disorder and begin enjoying a less stressful existence.