Should’ve been here by now.

You know that feeling when you’ve been expecting something to arrive, but then it doesn’t?

The train is behind schedule. The check in the mail isn’t here yet. Your package hasn’t even shipped yet.

“It should’ve been here by now!”, you complain to yourself. Then you think about why it’s not here yet… “What went wrong? Somebody must have dropped the ball. They had one job! Ugghhhh!”

I know, I’m generally an impatient person. It just so happens, this is one of my favorite mental hacks. I found that I can use my natural frustration with things that are running late to my advantage.

Here’s the trick:

Self-imposed deadlines.

By setting a deadline for my next launch, or my next milestone, I’m able to use that marker on the calendar to fuel my focus and productivity.

Here’s my process:

  1. What will get done? Write it down. Be sure that completing it is a binary thing: The product was opened up to users (or it hasn’t). The feature was pushed to production (or it hasn’t). The content was published (or it wasn’t). The marketing test was run for X days (or it wasn’t.)
  2. Pick a date. I recommend 4-6 weeks in the future. Later than that is too far, too many things can throw it off. Sooner than that and you’re probably not being ambitious enough (or it’s too much, too soon, with no real chance of success).
  3. Announce it publicly. Tweet it. Podcast it. Mention it to your mastermind buddies. Tell your dog. Just tell someone!
  4. Make two lists. First, list all the things you want to be included in this thing. Then cut the list in half: Split it up between the things you will get done before the deadline, and the things that can wait until after the deadline (i.e. the things that must be there in order to launch, and the things that can be added in post-launch).
  5. Get to work. Make progress on the first list. Every. Single. Day. Even if you’re busy with other commitments, push those to later in the day. Do this work first thing.
  6. And then…

Leverage your deadline

Here, the magic happens.

If you struck the right balance of being ambitious and realistic when you set the deadline, then you’ll be somewhere around 80% finished when the deadline arrives.

That’s perfect.

Don’t do what most people do, which is simply push the deadline back. You know what will happen if you do? You’ll push it back again. And again. And then one more time. Then one final delay. Then you get discouraged and embarrassed. Then you abandon the whole thing.

Instead, stick to your deadline—even when you’re late. Just know that in the days after your deadline passed, you’re behind schedule.

Now you can use that sense of urgency to your advantage. You become more decisive. You focus on what truly matters. You get it (or most of it) done sooner rather than later.

The nice thing about being late on your own deadlines is that you’re waiting on nobody else but yourself. You can either make excuses for why you’re late, or you can focus and do the work, right now. Your choice.

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