Deadlines Drive Action

"Without deadlines and restrictions, I tend to become preoccupied with other things." - Val Kilmer

What actually drives focus isn't the nicotine, it's the deadline. I used nicotine whenever I had a deadline and discovered it wasn't the nicotine that kept me focused, it was the deadline!

The timeline is defined by the deadline.

When I asked the question 'Do you time frame?' What I'm really asking is how important it is to you. If your answer is 'No,' then I know it isn't important.

Why do I resist deadlines?

Deadlines remove my ability to procrastinate. They also precede guilt, shame, and embarrassment, feels that accompany missing deadlines. The only way I got passing grades in school was because I made the deadline of the assignment. When I missed a due date, I was penalized with a lower grade. Lower grades as a youth means less freedom and greater parental surveillance. I recall the embarrassment of flunking a class because I failed to complete a project on time.

My dad (also a cyclist) would confirm that the main reason we sign up for races is to give ourselves a deadline to train towards. In order for me to complete a 65 mile ride on 10/14, I have to train. Without that deadline, I'd easily justify spending my time elsewhere.

Assigning a deadline is the first step towards toward completing a task.

Do you see deadlines as a loss of freedom or the ticket to freedom? Do the deadlines you’re working towards reflect the outcome you want? Are you striving to meet deadlines dictated by others? Those of us who earn a living most likely do.

Does the deadline drive you or discourage you? We have to set realistic deadlines, deadlines that stretch us, but not overwhelm us.

Defining deadlines drive results. A goal is a dream is a deadline. A wish is a dream without a deadline.

Indefinite plans are wishes.

Indefinite Tension

Without a deadline, we tend to delay indefinitely. The word indefinitely is defined 'for an unlimited or unspecified period of time.' The very act of using the word is an excuse to delay without penalty.

When will you get to it? BFID (before I die) or ASAP (as soon as possible)?

The moment a deadline is set, I feel tension. There's a tension in the gap between what is complete what is incomplete.

Tension ends when the deadline arrives.

A sense of urgency is an end the indefinite.

ASAP is indefinite. BFID is more accurate. Without a specific date, no one is held accountable. Excuses will come up. Conflicting priorities will arise.

The ultimate deadline we all must face someday is death. Death is the deadline on your life. Whether we acknowledge it or not, we will meet that deadline.

I recently started using a daily deadline at I keep it open (or embed it on a PubWriter page) as a constant reminder of the deadline of the day.

The gift of deadlines is a sense of urgency. It's the end of the indefinite. Deadlines give us a push in the right direction.

Tension is a friend that drives us to complete the incomplete.

From the moment we are born, there is tension until we die. It's the space between that create tension. We exist to complete what is incomplete. Life itself is incomplete until death. Everything is born to die. The idea of living indefinitely is a form of denial of our own impermanence. Do it now.

The older I get, the more I realize that most of the goals I put off indefinitely are definitely not going to ever happen. Someday/Maybe never comes.

The only goals that truly matter are the ones we are willing to set deadlines for. The more public the deadline, the better.

June 8, 2002
A deadline that drove me to do what I would have once said was impossible. It was the race date I had committed to very publicly (and with a hefty sum of money) to compete in my first Ironman race. The grueling 2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bike, and 26.2-mile run would ultimately take me over 15 hours to complete.

January 19, 2009
This was one of the bigger self-made deadlines of my life. It was the night I was to deliver a book I had spent the prior 12 months working on (50 Interviews). I barely made it. I had to tell the hundreds of people who had just purchased the book to not open it until the morning because the glue on the spine was still wet!
This deadline was preempted by a deadline set by a 3-day workshop I signed up for in 2008 (Landmark).

Without a deadline, would any of us ever pay taxes?

Looking back now, I realize it's the deadlines we set between cradle and grave that give goals (and our life) a greater sense of urgency (and accomplishment). I also see that every major milestone was preceded by a smaller, seemly insignificant deadlines that took me in the direction of something more significant.

What matters (to me)?

How these show up in my life are a direct reflection of the deadlines and commitments I make. A commitment without a deadline is a wish. The reason I meditate daily is because it's on my daily calendar. I plan my workday around pre-scheduled yoga classes. My writing only gets done because of a bimonthly deadline to submit to my critique group (thank you).

Do your deadlines drive anxiety or excitement?

Unfinished Business

Deadlines confine our tasks in time.

We like to believe we have enough time to get it all done, to believe we'll be given the time needed to complete the tasks. We don't.

We will never find enough time to do everything we want, but always find the time to do what we need. Perhaps the source of your frustration to get it all done is due to confusing your wants with your needs.

What's the penalty for missing a deadline? Guilt, embarrassment, shame, humility?


It's said one performance is equal to seven rehearsals. It's easy to see how much more important practice becomes when you will be expected to perform what you learn. It's like taking the test. We will be graded by those who witness it. If you never publish what you write, you'll never actually know how well you write. Is this why so few publish? To publish is a performance equal writing seven drafts.

"What we learn to do we learn by doing." - Aristotle

Clarify the outcome

When a task is obscure, completion of it is left to interpretation, and the completion likely uncertain. To hit a target, we must be specific.

I don't like things to end. Perhaps my perpetual never ending list of unfinished tasks is a way to subconsciously avoid facing the reality of my ultimate end.

I've been putting a lot of thought into what I want to do before I die. A trigger was asking myself the question 'what do I want to be remembered for?'

Maybe I'm just overthinking all of this. Maybe I'm not. Maybe PubWriter actually reflects a way to never have to say my writing is ever complete. Is this why so many write, but so few publish? Or is my greatest need to help eliminate this barrier for myself and other writers? If so, PubWriter fits.

Expiration dates

Here's the beautiful thing about expiration dates. They are a constant reminder of the impermanence of everything.

Try this!

Assign an expiration date to every task on your to-do list.

By the expiration date, one of two things will happen: You will have it done, or you won't. Either way, it expires. Times up. There's nothing you can do but to restart. There are no do-overs, only more attempts. When a writer's work is rejected, will they get a second chance? Not likely. But they can make another attempt.

Start looking more critically at the time sensitivity of every task on your list. The longer it lingers, in most cases, the less important it becomes.

You may find the value of many tasks on your list have been on your list so long that their value has all but diminished. Is all that unfinished business weighing you down? Have they become an obstacle?

This is one of the reasons why rewriting your todo list everyday has value.

A new framework for email (expiring email)

Every email has an expiration date. It expires 48 hours after it arrives in your inbox. When it expires, it gets deleted forever. The sender is notified that the email was never read and given the option to resend. Within 48 hours, you must decide on one of four actions: delete, forward, reply, or archive. Emails you move to your archive expire in 30 days. Again, the sender is notified once their email is deleted. Being realistic, if you aren't able to take action within 30 days, will you truly ever? The idea of getting to it someday/maybe is an illusion. By the time you get to your archive folder, you've received already hundreds more emails.

If you are anything like me, your inbox may have hundreds of unread emails. What if you started assigning an expiration date to each email?

Guess what? The deadline I set for this writing just occurred. I hope you enjoyed it. Now get busy working on your own deadlines before you are deadlined.


Did you hate school? It might have been because you didn't like deadlines. The framework of school is based on deadlines. If you viewed school as a game of deadlines, your entire life may have turned out quite different.