Posted by: kevinliebl | April 26, 2010

Why I Love Deadlines – Well Mostly…

Deadline Clock

Deadlines are Approaching

Life is full of deadlines and most of us dread them.  However, without deadlines we would get nothing done.  Our goal is to “deliver”.  We may be delivering a product or service at work.  We may be finishing a personal goal such as losing weight or writing a book.  It really doesn’t matter, but without a deadline we would never finish.  Your odds of success increase each time you deliver.

Think for a moment of all of the unfinished projects in your life.  It may the home improvement project that you just can’t find time to work on.  It may be converting your old movies to a digital format on the computer.  It may be a charity project that you want to get off the ground.  There are probably many great projects that you would like to complete, but don’t seem to find a way to complete them.  There are likely a few simple reasons why.

Perfection vs. Good Enough
There is a perfectionist in each of us, and the perfectionist seems to show his ugly head when we are trying to complete a project.  It is much easier to postpone completing a project by simply rationalizing that we should rework a section, or we need more time to think through a step.  There is a time to simply say, “It is good enough.  It is done.”  It is far more important to get it out the door than to make it perfect.  Most great painters delivered thousands of paintings before one was considered a classic.  Don’t expect everything you do to be a masterpiece.  Just make sure it is something you are proud of.

The Problem with the Backup Plan
The problem with having a backup plan is that it becomes too easy to give up on the original goal and simply drop back to the easier alternative.  Don’t get me wrong.  I am a big fan of risk analysis and having a way of responding to unexpected roadblocks, but they should keep you on the path to your original goal, lower your goal.  If your backup plan is to fall back to an easier alternative that delivers significantly less than your original goal, then you are setting yourself up for failure.

Force yourself to commit to success.   After landing his invasion forces on the shore, the Spanish explorer, Hernan Cortes immediately burned his own boats.  It sent a message to his troops.  “We can’t turn back.  Either we succeed or we die.  Excuses are not an option!”  Whether it is an urban myth or true, it is a great example of a commitment to a goal.

The Deadline
Saturday Night Live (SNL) has a great formula.  They deliver a show every Saturday night – and it is live.  There are no excuses.  They can’t show up without a script.  They can’t tell the audience that they had writer’s block.  The must deliver every week.  Sometimes it is a good show.  Sometimes it is a bad show.  And sometimes, it is brilliant.  The beauty in the formula is the deadline.  A deadline will solve the perfection issue above.  It doesn’t have to be perfect.  It simply needs to be on-time and good enough.  It will also solve the backup plan issue.  There is no backup plan.  The cameras are live on Saturday night.  They must deliver.  They must figure it out.  There is always a way.

Great companies deliver products.  They may not always be great products, but they deliver and they generate revenues.  The cadence of having a deadline and continually delivering creates customer satisfaction and loyalty.  And sometimes, just sometimes, they deliver brilliance.  However, allowing a company to find continually slip schedules, extend delivery dates and use unachievable perfection as an excuse, keeps companies from bringing products to market at all.  If you don’t deliver, you will never have a shot at delivering brilliance.

How do you break through the barriers that keep you from meeting your deadlines?

I need to stop now.  My blog is due for submission…


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  1. Kevin, another thing I find about deadlines is that they keep you focused. I like what you said about perfectionism. I am one and often find myself saying just what you said. More and more I remind myself that “it’s good enough”. Your analogy about painters is a very good example.

    Thanks for the reminder Kevin.

  2. Great post Kevin. I have lots of personal experiences that related to this topic and completely agree. Unless one or one’s business has unlimited time and resources, perfection is the enemy. Good enough is the goal, specifically good enough to sell and be better than your competitor.

    Another way I look at it or help others in the same situation is to keep in mind is to think of which choice to pick.
    1. release a product that is not perfect but will sell
    2. or keep delaying and perfecting it then have no revenue at all

    • Roger,

      Agreed. Revenue is always better than no revenue. They key is to produce and deliver products and services that we are proud of. This doesn’t mean that they have to be perfect. They need to be good enough to sell. You can (in most circumstances) improve the product over time.

      Thanks for the comment.

      – Kevin

  3. This blog post is excellent! My struggle is perfection verses good enough. Many of my blog post go unpublished because I have questioned whether my content has been perfected. If I adopt your theory now then I will be free to accept natural imperfections.

    Your insight on the backup plan is extraordinary.

    Great job!

  4. I love Livelines. I think Livelines are more enjoyable than Deadlines. It is important to concentrate on initial planning along with the approach to execute the task in hand. Liveline is the happening place, it is where we do, learn and make things happen. Deadline is the destination while Liveline is the journey itself.

  5. I would agree that deadlines make you take action on something that you want, or may not want, to do. Once you regularly take action, it can become a habit and the need for a true deadline lessens.

  6. Great post…deadlines are critical to getting anything done – whether it’s related to getting your career to the next step (it’s amazing how many job hunters don’t create a plan and deadlines for doing what they need to get their next job) or completing an important project.

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