The Truth About Having A Deadline


In the 1860’s during the US Civil War, at a hellish Andersonville, GA prison camp, a line was drawn. As reported in an inspection report by Confederate Captain Walter Bowie:

On the inside of the stockade and twenty feet from it there is a dead-line established, over which no prisoner is allowed to go, day or night, under penalty of being shot.

So began the use of the first literal “deadline” in history, representing something so important, it was enforced by the threat of death.


Since this time, the use of the word “deadline and the phrase ”line in the sand” have become commonplace in modern vernacular. If you work in a large business, you probably have too many deadlines of varying importance, frequently changing and enforced to different degrees. If you are an entrepreneur (like me) and get the dubious honor of being your own boss, you might have zero external deadlines.

In the later scenario, you must create the deadlines on your own. It’s like being the prisoner and the guard at the same time. A tricky position to be in.

If you don’t have clear deadlines, you need to create them. Some people call them goals and some businesses call them targets. They all refer to the same thing. You must decide what needs to happen and by when. What is the line you will not cross?

Benefits of Deadlines

Deadlines have some great uses. The first is that they create clarity for you and all the people you interact with. If a deadline is looming, people naturally stop bothering you. Despite what we think about people enjoying the act of interruption, I do not believe it to be the case. When your network and colleagues know you are focused on something important, they naturally self-censor and/or delay requests.

Deadlines also work better than a double-espresso chased by an ice-cold Red Bull when it comes to finding that extra gear to make it to the finish line.

Consider what happens at the tail end of each marathon (or ultra-marathon). I’m not saying you need to go through the torture of running of these events (like I do) to experience the deadline effect, just watch people finishing a race as a bystander while sipping on the espresso mentioned above.

In the final stretch of a marathon, people who looked like the walking dead just a few miles prior suddenly spring to life. It’s like someone has jolted them with electricity at mile 25, sometimes giving them such a boost that their final mile is the fastest of the entire 26.2 miles ordeal. Coming into a finishing chute, you see people sprinting like they are being chased by a lion and a tiger at the same time.

Such is the power of deadlines.

Deadlines are crucial, no matter what.

Goals That Matter

They take on an even more unique quality when they are linked to a worthy goal that has meaning and heart. They are super-charged when the target represents a common purpose with your team and is shared with a trusted advisor and/or coach.

I hope by now you understand the importance of deadlines. If you don’t have deadlines that have been dictated to you by your business or customers, create them on your own. If you need help with this process, click here for a complimentary strategy session with me and I’d be happy to coach you on this topic.

BTW – I’d love to know what your current deadline is. Leave a comment to this post and let me know!