I personally find that having a timeline instead of a deadline allows me the flexibility and makes room for self-forgiveness when it takes me longer than anticipated to reach a certain goal. Since I started my own business, the thought of a looming deadline has given me anxiety like I’d never experienced when it came to deadlines for school or even my old 9-5.

I know I’m not alone when it comes to fear of disappointing myself (what I believe to be the underlying reason for my own “deadline anxiety”). Those of us who know the feeling understand how procrastination can cause us to dread even the simplest of tasks.

If you can relate to the dread and anxiety around deadlines, please keep reading to find out why setting a timeline may be more beneficial to your goals. 

Benefits of Using a Timeline

For some of us, a deadline is something that motivates us to complete our goal. For others, deadlines cause a lot of unnecessary stress and overall dissatisfaction with our journey. Of course, when we don’t enjoy something we often quit. I found myself moving from project to project the minute it became clear I wouldn’t meet my own deadline. Needless to say, there was a reason I didn’t seem to complete any of the business projects I’d planned for myself.

Eventually (a few months later than I’d like to admit) I learned from my mistakes and realized that setting a timeline instead of a deadline gave me more peace of mind when it came to tackling business projects.

Some of the benefits to using a timeline are:

  1. Flexible goal dates. A timeline offers a timespan as opposed to a “hard date,” which helps break down each goal into smaller segments. These segments can then be spread out along the timeline. If you’re anything like me, we tend to think that we can accomplish the work of 10 people in one week (while we can totally do this, working at this level of speed and efficiency usually can’t be sustained indefinitely). By seeing each segment along the timeline, I am better able to accept that I may simply need an extra week or two to accomplish my goal. Extending my timeline feels much more acceptable to me than postponing my deadline.
  2. Focus on the big picture. Like I mentioned above, a timeline naturally offers a more structured way of planning, allowing us to focus on the whole picture of what it takes to accomplish our goal. This has really helped me when breaking down the necessary steps to reaching my goal. Back when I used to set deadlines, I found that I wasn’t really taking into account every step to my goal’s achievement. I’d often realize I had neglected to account for several tasks that would be necessary for me to achieve the overall goal. Personally, I believe that timelines naturally allow for better, more holistic planning of each goal.
  3. Creates accountability. Creating milestones along the way allows each of us to hold ourselves accountable as we move closer to accomplishing our goal. Not only does this help with self-accountability, but if you share your plan with others, they can help you on track, too! These milestones don’t need to be large accomplishments; the phrase “slow and steady wins the race” was coined for a reason. Your milestones should also include the small accomplishments. This way, we can celebrate along the way, no matter how big or small our goals.

Creating a Timeline

When creating a timeline for a certain goal, start with the end in mind. Set a tentative date or month when you want the goal to become reality, and then start breaking down the tasks and mini-projects you’ll need to complete along the way. If you realize that you may need some more time to get all the pieces finished, just extend the timeline. If something unexpected comes up along the way, simply extend the timeline again.

Are Deadlines Bad?

No! If deadlines work to motivate you without feeling like a stressor, use them to your benefit. If–like me–having deadlines has caused you to put off your goals in the past, give timelines a try. While it’s important to have a thought-out plan and know when you want to complete your goal, what matters is making your goal easier to achieve. Timelines have allowed me to follow-through with my goals, but if you find that deadlines do this better for you, don’t let me stop you!

Please reach out or comment below if you need help creating a timeline for yourself. Sometimes it can be overwhelming to attack a large goal, and often I find it helps me to have a mentor to offer a different perspective. I also encourage you to check out the Accountability Collective, a community of like-minded women entrepreneurs committed to making their dreams a reality!