I’m co-writing a journal article and both of us were struggling with the fact there is no externally imposed deadline to finish it. As a result, there is always something else with a due date that appears to be more urgent and the article keeps getting set aside. We finally named an end date to spur us into action, and I have no doubt that the draft will be ready to go by the end of May as we agreed.

The ability to set your own deadlines — and actually stick to them — is one of the most important life skills but it is rarely taught. I think it’s the key learning that comes from writing a dissertation (and why so many remain ABD), but most schooling is deadline-driven as is work and even event-based leisure. Youth sports begin the practice of living by someone else’s calendar (practice at X time, game at Y) and it often continues throughout adult years when we enroll in fitness classes vs. exercising on our own.

When left to our own devices, we don’t have much practice at creating our own timetables and holding ourselves accountable, yet the important aspects of your life require you to establish your own deadlines to accomplish them. The key is to get specific and create an internally imposed deadline to get in the queue along with external obligations. Instead of saying “there is no deadline” for writing an article, saving $X, or running a marathon, commit to a completion point and honor your word as you would if some else put that due date on your calendar.

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