Deadlines and schedules are absolutely essential tools to get objectives completed in time and on budget. Without these tools, a simple goal could end up becoming an open-ended process eating resources far beyond the expected returns on investment.
At the same time, we must not forget that they are merely tools. Sometimes, deadlines are missed, and schedules have to be adjusted. When we miss a timeline, the number one risk is allowing it to affect one’s emotional state. Feeling out of integrity, feeling unreliable, feeling unworthy, are some possible emotional reactions to coming to the realization, “Oh crap, it’s Wednesday!”
Emotional state is the number one important indicator and predictor of performance. Therefore, missing a deadline and feeling bad over an extended period of time is aggravating things, like adding insult to injury. The feeling bad may in fact cause more damage to the project than the missing of the deadline.
So it is correspondingly true that the number one damage control mechanism is to use the reframe or de-committing.
Reframing means putting a story or lesson around the missed deadline or slipped schedule, so the overall experience seems worth the minor sin of missing a deadline (like this blog post being late).
De-committing means realizing that once it is unavoidable that a commitment cannot be met, formally withdrawingthe commitment (we call this de-committing), is a way to avoid damage to our sense of integrity, because until the moment the goal became unattainable, there was sincere effort, and the universe was duly and timely notified when circumstances showed up making it unfeasible to achieve the goal.
One potential strategy to avoid having to deal with missed deadlines and slipping schedules to find aspects of the project which do not have to be on a strict schedule, for it to be getting handled sufficiently over time. For example, if picking up certain supplies is sufficient to do once a month, it is better to put it on a general to-buy list which goes out with the shopper as an incidental extra list as part of a trip that was happening anyway, versus obsessing over an artificial deadline once every month.
Another strategy is to ask if a given deadline or scheduled item is really necessary to complete at all, and if there are ways to simplify or streamline the goal so it can be completely more quickly and efficiently.
Sometimes a task shows up demanding attention, and if ignored, become irrelevant and too late to act on after a certain date. Sometimes, that can be disastrous. In other cases, it can be a valid de-cluttering strategy, to eliminate unnecessary items from the to-do list.
Don’t get me wrong, I am not saying deadlines and schedules are bad, or we should minimize the significance of missing them or setting them slip. I am, however, suggesting from a bigger picture perspective, the largest risk comes from emotional state going into unsupportive things, and we have the power to prevent that.Keep things in perspective, take your time, smell the roses, and get yourself feeling good first, before worrying about cleaning. Give the deadlines and worries their due attention. But don’t beat yourself up too much if you miss it. Recommit to miss no more deadlines, but emerge feeling better about the situation, not worse.