Cut that big pan of brownies into bites.

How to control deadlines instead of letting them control you.

You know that you have that one project to do, and it needs to be done NOW. It’s there, hanging over your head like the black cloud that always followed Joe Btfsplk* around Li’l Abner strips.

But you don’t really want to do that project. Maybe it’s too difficult, looks like it will take too long, or you just don’t know how. Or maybe it’s just easier to open Facebook/Twitter/Instagram one more time than to actually get started.

Of course you aren’t alone. This has happened throughout the course of history (except the Facebook/Twitter/Instagram part of course). Adam wouldn’t have taken a bite of the apple if Eve wasn’t tapping her foot and telling him to hurry up. Caesar wouldn’t have sent his armies out to conquer the world if he didn’t sense the restless mass of generals enviously eyeing his laurel crown. Heck, how many of us would bother to fill out our tax forms if there was no April 15th?

That’s why deadlines exist in the first place. To give us incentive, the motivation to get things done.

So why do most of us hate deadlines so much? Probably because of the added stress of a ticking clock measuring our progress. It could also be a lack of discipline, or maybe even the potential threat of discipline if we don’t get it done on time.

But it doesn’t have to be that way. After all, as one guy put it, in somewhat financial terms, “a deadline is simply a means of budgeting your time, and since time is limited, (you) have to spend it wisely.” While my personal budgeting skills are somewhat suspect, I do know that we all need motivation from time to time, and deadlines are actually an asset when you know how to control them instead of letting them control you.

Here’s a few lessons I have learned about deadlines throughout the years:

1. Set your own deadlines. Because if you don’t, someone else will.
You can avoid being overworked when you are in charge of your workload. Set your own deadlines, tell your boss what you are working on and when she can expect it, then deliver on time. Your boss will be thrilled at your work ethic and relieved that she does not have to find things for you to do.

2. Cut that big pan of brownies into bites.
Everything looks bigger when you look at everything you have to finish. But by taking one piece at a time you can eat the whole pan. And I know you want to.

3. Recruit allies before the war gets intense.
Sometimes there’s too much chocolatey goodness for one person, and you need to hand a few to a dependable co-worker or friend, or even (gasp!) hand off the whole pan to a vendor you trust. Trust your allies, and be ready to eat some cake when they need you.

Now if you’ll excuse me, my oven timer is going off.

*If you have no idea who that is, click the link already. Al Capp was a genius you ought to know about.

Kent Dicken

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