Why I Set Personal Deadlines

We all understand the importance of setting deadlines at work. Everything revolves around intentionally set deadlines and there are consequences if they aren’t met. Deadlines are a useful tool at work to keep progress moving forward. If there were no deadlines and no consequences for missing them, how many projects would realistically get done?

Apply the same thinking above to your personal life: If you don’t intentionally work at improving yourself, how can you expect that improvement to happen?

PDPs

At Praxis, our favorite self-improvement tool is the PDP: A self-chosen 30-day challenge with tangible benchmarks and outcomes. The best PDPs involve doing something tangible every single day for 30 days. These daily deadlines, if taken seriously, produce results.

Here are my PDPs so far for this year:

  • January: Circadian rhythm fasting. Fast for 13–16 hours starting after dinner each day. Try to have dinner as close to sundown as possible. 
    Outcomes: Lost 7lbs, Easier to wake up early.
  • February: Continue fasting and complete a Whole 30 — eating only real fruits, veggies, and meats for 30 days straight. No sugar, dairy, grains, additives, or desserts. 
    Outcomes: Lost 9lbs more, down a jean size, more energy.
  • March: Read for at least an hour every day. 
    Outcomes: Finished one new book each week.
  • April: Writing a valuable blog post every single day, either on cooklikechuck.com, cagrimmett.com, Medium, or the Praxis blog
    Outcomes: 26 new blog posts and counting, higher website traffic.
  • May (planned): Build and launch LeonardRead.org. Do one thing each day to digitize, OCR, edit, publish, and market Leonard E. Read’s journals and writings.

You don’t necessarily commit to doing something every day for 30 days. I like doing it because it leaves no room for excuses. That said, it isn’t for everyone. Some people work better with weekly goals so they can dedicate their weekends to it. Others like to dedicate one morning or evening each week to self-improvement projects.

No matter which path you choose, remember these two keys to self-improvement:

  1. Challenge yourself. Push the limits of your abilities and force yourself to learn.
  2. The deadlines need to be clearly defined, not nebulous.
  3. Never let yourself skip. Sometimes this is brutal. Yesterday this meant I worked from 8am to midnight with a break for dinner. Saying, “I don’t have time” actually means, “It isn’t a priority for me.” If you don’t give yourself room to use that excuse, you won’t make it.

On Missing a Deadline

Like any good manager, don’t fire yourself when you miss a deadline. Make sure you are falling forward, identifying why you missed the deadline, and put systems in place to make sure it doesn’t happen again.

No Room for Flexibility

Consider this quote on goal setting from HBR:

Maybe you are the sort of person who finds it hard to motivate yourself to take on such goals. If that’s the case, taking a flexible approach might be best for you.

I don't think that flexible goals are good for anyone. They signal that:

  • You don’t take your goals seriously enough to put systems in place to overcome your fear and follow through on them.
  • You are unwilling to commit.

We are capable of more than we give ourselves credit for. Set rigid goals and give yourself the chance to rise to meet them. That is what growth is about.


We don’t get ahead by being easy on ourselves. We don’t get ahead by going through the motions. We get ahead by intentionally working on things that improve our skills and abilities.

Set clearly defined personal deadlines and hold yourself accountable for meeting them.