Deadlines: love ‘em or hate ‘em; they can keep you from running around in circles.
For many, the end of June marks another kind of deadline, the end of another fiscal year. Even for those organizations which follow the lunar calendar, June 30 means “tick-tock” the year’s halfway over. Either way, although it’s challenging, we can’t squander milestones like these. They offer the perfect opportunity for reflection, creative problem-solving, and action.
Deadlines or not, it’s often hard to find time for reflection. When one day’s to-do list requires a week, how can we afford to pause in order to reflect? Some would argue that it’s vital to pause and reflect when the work becomes overwhelming. After all, work doesn’t typically recede on its own without some intervention.
It’s like a rotary or roundabout. If you’re focused only on the road, you continually miss one turnoff option after another and are left—literally—running around in circles. Slowing down to consider and merge into a new direction is critical.
Creative Problem Solving
Another reason why there is inherent value in deadlines is the ability to solve problems in real time. Even the best-laid plans cannot anticipate every scenario—global pandemic anyone?—or avoid every challenge. Pausing in the middle helps you find the solutions you didn’t know you were going to need.
Continuing the rotary metaphor, sometimes accidents happen, and your planned exit is not available. What then? It’s time to get creative.
Sometimes it’s nice to have an excuse to not take action—especially when that action falls outside your comfort zone or into risky or unchartered territory. We know we need to make a change but it’s the year or quarter-end, we’re in the middle of something else, or now just doesn’t feel right. Alas, those excuses are just that: excuses. As a former manager would say to her staff when one of them was lagging behind, “It’s time to put on your big boy pants, stop whining, and do it.” In other words, if we have a job to do, we have a job to do.
One final rotary metaphor: Let’s say you know you have to do something—such as, oh, I don’t know, update your messaging!—and don’t. That means you’re that timid driver who inches his way into the rotary, slowing everyone else down, risking mass collisions in the process.
Deadlines inherently bring with them stress, which is why the whole idea of pausing to reflect, solve, and take action seems like the kind of luxury only multi-millionaires can afford. But if we don’t, we’ll continue to drive in circles and not move forward at all.