The Blog.

Killing yourself to meet a deadline? Give yourself a lifeline.

15 Sep 2014 | Clarity & Focus


I have a bit of a love hate relationship with deadlines.

I love them, because they work. There’s nothing like a deadline to get me moving, out of uncertainty and procrastination, and into crazy wild-eyed get it done mode.

But I also hate the stress they bring on. The way they loom in the distance for ages, then all of a sudden creep up on us and send us into blind panic. Even the word deadline seems so final and last minute – do it or die.

I won’t deny it, there is something quite seductive about that adrenaline rush you get when you’re up against the clock, not entirely sure if you’ll make it, followed by the supreme sense of satisfaction when you do pull it off.

But there’s always a price to pay – late nights that take a toll on your health, opportunities you have to say ‘no’ to, or having to put the rest of your life on hold ‘just for now’… Not to mention the times when several deadlines creep up on you, backing you into a corner, all wanting a piece of you.

And when you do survive and make that deadline by the skin of your teeth, you vow to yourself that you’re never going to leave it that close again… until the next time.

It’s an exhausting place to be, constantly at the edge, wondering if you’re going to survive.

So, what’s the alternative? Avoid deadlines and stay in the nice, comfortable fields of ‘someday’?

Or is it time to throw yourself a lifeline?

A lifeline is something YOU create.

A self-imposed ‘deadline’ if you like, but instead of killing you, it breathes life into your project, giving you momentum without the panic.

A target date that creates margin, ahead of your deadline, giving you breathing room and the capacity to respond to last minute hiccups, unexpected changes and surprise opportunities.

A timeline that helps you to work at a pace that’s sustainable and enjoyable around everything else you’ve got going on in life, instead of yo-yoing between ‘stuck and thinking about it’ and ‘killing yourself to get it done’.

A deadline works by taking choice away, but a lifeline gives you choice. Nobody dies if you don’t take a lifeline, but when you do – you get so much more. More opportunity, more fun, more freedom, and yup, you get more done.

That’s what we’re in the business of doing in my 40 Days of Baby Steps.

Turning deadlines into lifelines. 

Instead of procrastinating for 5 weeks, then killing ourselves in the 6th, we take every week as an opportunity to make progress, so that:

  • when curveballs come flying (and they do) we are on our feet ready to respond
  • when we’re running hard meeting existing commitments, we are also honouring the commitments we make to ourselves (remember those?)
  • when surprise opportunities arise (which they will), we have the choice and freedom to grab them with both hands.

That’s exactly what happened to one of my graduate Baby Steppers this week, when a BIG opportunity arose to submit a proposal – that very same day. As she put it, “there is no way I could have drafted together a proposal in 6 hours but it was easy to print off the one I’d created during 40 days!”

What about you? Are you ready to stop killing yourself with deadlines and start creating some lifelines?

Come and join me for the next 40 Days of Baby Steps – we start today!


  1. Ali C-S

    Love a deadline Grace, it gives me loads of motivation. My deadlines need to be given by others though as I will just give myself excuses! Love the idea of the lifeline I certainly need something to motivate me to do things that need to be done and caught up on but by me and no-one else!

    • Grace Marshall

      A deadline in someone else’s world definitely holds more power. But you can create accountability for your lifelines too 🙂 Have fun!

Image if author Grace Marshall

About Grace

I coach, train, write and speak on productivity. I help people adopt new ways of working and thinking about their work to replace stress, overwhelm and frustration with success, sanity and satisfaction.

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