How To Turn Goals Into Deadlines

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We shouldn’t make resolutions every January. We should set deadlines.

Recently, I was listening to an interview on The Paul Leslie Hour with Tim Rice. Tim is one of the greatest lyricists of all time. I remember his collaborations on Disney films during the early ’90s including his work with Elton John on the songs for The Lion King.

During the interview, Paul asked Tim what his greatest source of inspiration is. And he was rather surprised when Tim responded with:

A deadline.

If you are a creative person or if you’ve worked with a creative person you probably know that “deadline” may as well be a four-letter word. After all, you can’t crush the creative spirit. You can’t rush it. You can’t force it.

But the reality is that the best and most successful creatives, in any field, are those that mix creativity with strong work ethic. And by work ethic it means sticking with schedules, routines and deadlines.

I remember listening to another interview with another songwriter. It was with Rhett Akins, a country artist and songwriter. I believe it was on the Bobbycast with Bobby Bones. They were discussing careers and success and Rhett mentioned that his work ethic is what he’s most proud of when it comes to his career.

The more you listen to successful people the more you realize the importance of deadlines.

Here are a few tips for turning your goals into deadlines.

1. What Are Others Doing?

Life is an odd mix of comparing yourself to others and also comparing yourself to your past self. You can get into trouble if you do too much of one and not the other.

It’s weird, but in most cases when you’re starting out with a goal it’s good to look at others. Others that have had the same goal. Look at what they used for a deadline. Or if they didn’t use a deadline, look at how long it took for them to reach a goal.

In many ways we’re not that different from others. If it took someone 10 years to grow a certain type of business, you are probably going to fail if you set the a deadline for the same goal at one year.

And that’s where we can get into trouble with deadlines. If you set them too unrealistic you’re going to become frustrated at best and at worst you’ll realize that it’s unattainable and you’ll give up early on.

The music world has been interesting in this area. For a long time artists would release a new album every 18-24 months. It’s what many were doing so record labels would give the same deadline to almost every artist. And those artists that followed it well would often find success.

2. What Can Become Routine?

The key with deadlines is to set one and then focus on the routine tasks. Take the goal of writing 1,000 songs. It’s probably something Tim Rice and Rhett Akins did at some point. Maybe they heard or read that other successful songwriters had written 1,000 songs in 10 years and from that had 10 hits.

Break that down and you have 100 songs per year. Break that down and you have 2 songs per week. That means those songwriters have to schedule at least two writing sessions per week in order to hit their goal.

That’s how you build routines and meet deadlines.

3. How Will You Audit?

Much of hitting deadlines is about putting your head down and doing work. But every once in awhile you need to bring your head out of the weeds and look at the big picture. You have to audit what is going on. You have to look at the goal, the deadline and your current routine.

And then you make adjustments.

We can easily fall into habits that are outside of the routine we originally had planned. Things come up that seem “urgent” so we do them and then those things become routine. We have to schedule times for audits so we can get things back on track.


Some of the most successful people in history have been the best at setting and meeting deadlines. It doesn’t matter if it’s in business or in some creative field, deadlines are a great source of inspiration. They’re not sexy or creative or any of those traditionally believed things. But they get the job done.

If you want success, learn how to set better deadlines.

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