Deadlines & Due Dates: Friend or Foe?

Writers, lawyers, engineers, artists, business executives and anyone else who wants to add value to those they serve must be able to deliver what they offer – whether it’s a product, service, strategy or recommendation. Meeting deadlines and due dates are usually a key part of the delivery process.

Deadlines and due dates are your best friend or your greatest foe, depending on how they affect you and your performance.


They get you out of procrastination mode. Whether it’s thrust upon you or you make it up, a deadline can help you get started and gain momentum.

If I worked on my blog posts only when I felt like it, my entries would be sporadic and perhaps fade away entirely. With a weekly posting schedule, I blog even when I am stumped for ideas. By rising to the challenge of my self-imposed due date, I start writing and keep at it until I’m done.

Deadlines can keep you from slacking off. (Of course, there are times when you deserve to cut yourself some slack, like when you’re ill or on vacation).

They spark focus and decisiveness. When there is no due date, a project can languish or expand with no clear end in sight.

If there is too much flexibility, things don’t get done, deliverables get tabled, and progress is held up. You might also spend way too much time on a project. As Parkinson’s Law states, “Work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion.”

Meanwhile, a hard deadline sparks laser focus and astute decisiveness to push the project through to timely completion.

They result in first-rate work. If you have a due date to finish a task or make a decision, you won’t have time to get lost in superficial details or mired in useless discussions.

Healthy pressure from deadlines can amp up your creativity and boost your productivity, which leads to top-notch work.


They give you an excuse to procrastinate. If you have three months, six months, a year or more to finish something, you might keep putting it off until it becomes urgent.

As an undergraduate in college, I frequently waited until the night before a paper was due to write like crazy until it was time to go to class and turn in the assignment. Back in those days, I got by and even excelled with just-in-time deliverables. As I grew up and my responsibilities became more complex, waiting until the last minute no longer worked.

Chipping away at a project bit by bit, instead of tackling it all at the 11th hour, is the easiest way to get it done. A distant deadline often creates the illusion that you have more time than you truly have to do the task well.

They create painful stress and needless worry. Deadlines can hurt like hell. If they are too tight, they make you want to scream, run away, or take shelter until they pass. If they are too loose, you have extra time to overanalyze your strategy, obsess over pros and cons, and slip into endless angst.

They lead to so-so work. When there’s a tight deadline, your need for expediency sometimes supersedes your desire for quality. Instead of doing a bang up job, you take shortcuts and use cookie-cutter approaches that lead to merely passable work.

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Deadlines and due dates can leave you feeling fried and defeated. This is when they are your worst enemy. But when they help you do great work with super efficiency, they are your trusted supporter and reliable comrade.


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Photo by: Samyra Serin