Setting Goals For Ourselves
(And Ensuring We Complete Them)
Meeting goals and deadlines is part of everyone’s work life, whether it’s completing a client marketing report, to getting the quarterly sales forecasts for shareholders. Whether working in an office, or remotely, it is the same.
However, when working remotely, there are certain nudges you may not get when working from the office, such as your boss asking you when they walk past your desk about a project. Though it can be annoying for you, it is a constant reminder and push for us to complete a project.
These are absent when working remotely, sure, there are the Slack reminders, but they can be missed or lost in the masses of notifications. We’ll be looking at how setting goals works and a few techniques to help you stick to our deadlines.
How deadlines motivate us
When talking about motivations, there are two different types, internal motivations (intrinsic) and external motivations (extrinsic).
When we decide to do the dishes because we want to keep our home clean, or hit the gym 3 times a week because we want to keep in shape, these are intrinsic motivations. These come from our personal passions and internal drive, we decide to do something on our own.
On the other hand, when you are boss needs you to complete a project, or you pay your electricity bill so you can ‘keep the lights on’, these are extrinsic motivations. These are due to external sources, someone or something urging us to complete a task.
Deadlines are normally come from extrinsic motivation, a work deadline is usually given to us by your boss, a client, or a team member who’s relying on us to complete a task.
A study found that while self-imposed deadlines can help curb procrastination, external motivators are more effective in helping us meet a deadline due to the negative connotations for missing them, such as getting in trouble at work or disappointing someone.
Extrinsic motivation is a more effective method for deadlines for the most part, however, the ability to combine both internal and external motivators can provide the key to long term success. If we can find the balance of personal passion for something with the external consequences for failing to hit a deadline, we are more likely to complete our task.
The danger of far off deadlines
Unless our deadlines are attainable and clear-cut, they can become worthless, or even potentially harmful.
However, even when we have far off deadlines, we tend to procrastinate up until the deadline is imminent. Some people find that the stress of working to a tight deadline improves the quality and the speed at which they complete their work.
Psychologist Heidi Halvorson says that loss of motivation comes back to the “Goal looms Larger Effect”: when a deadline is closer, we perceive it to be more urgent and work towards it feverishly.
While there may be short-term benefits to working to tight, it can cause long-term stress and decrease in performance making procrastination a poor strategy in the long term.
So instead of having far-off deadlines, try using what is known as “now deadlines”. These are like having micro deadlines, where a big projects is broken up into smaller tasks, helping us work more steadily to meet a final deadline.
Individual and team deadlines
When a team works together to meet a project deadline, everyone relies on each other to get their tasks completed, someone’s failure to complete a task on time causes them to let down the team. This type of deadline is in the camp of extrinsic motivation.
When it comes to working on a solo project and we need to motivate ourselves, things are a little different. Setting deadlines for ourselves can go one of two ways; it either helps to motivate us, or adds additional layers of stress.
So, when we set our own deadlines, it’s best to be generous with our estimate, so as not to cause ourselves undue stress. It’s also worth noting that when we are forced to push back a deadline, we lose motivation and fall into a cycle of procrastination.
Advice when setting deadlines
Research shows that defining specific “where” and “when” parameters for a task increase the likelihood of completing it; deadlines help us define the “when.” So when working on a project, some things you should be considering to best set yourself up for the deadline.
#1. Be generous with time estimates
We want to be generous with the time so as not to cause unnecessary stress with trying to meet something that is not easy to attain. We also want some wiggle room, in case we find we need more time to complete it.
#2. Split it down into smaller tasks
When we have a big project, the best thing to do is split it down into smaller, more manageable tasks, each task with its own deadline. This way, no matter how far off we set the deadline, our individual task deadlines will be ready and upcoming, stopping the desire to procrastinate.
#3. Set aside time to work
We all have multiple things we are working, that’s why it is important to set aside time to work on different projects. Adding dates and times to our calendar helps remind us when better manage our time to work on projects. Time tracking software is also a good idea as we can better see and understand how much of our time we have dedicated to the project.
#4. Holding ourselves accountable
In the end, we are accountable for the work we do (or don’t do). It us up to us to ensure that we complete our work on a project so we can stick to our deadlines. It is us, and us alone that can get ourselves to do complete our work.
Deadlines, whether intrinsic or extrinsic, are a part of everyday work life. If we can use deadlines in a specific, contained, and deliberate way, without falling into a habit of procrastination, they can be an effective motivator for us and our team.