How do you handle a missed self-imposed deadline?


Right now I’m trying to revise three chapters a day. For the most part, these aren’t super intense revisions, so it’s a doable goal, but maintaining such a strict daily goal is hit or miss.

Sometimes one chapter is tougher to get through than another three combined. Other times life gets in the way. I edit on paper, so usually I begin by transferring the previous day’s edits into Scrivener to get my head into the section and then switch back to the manuscript.

I’m working toward a self-imposed deadline, not an external one right now. I love hard deadlines because they don’t take excuses or negotiation. You simply must deliver. But with a self-imposed deadline, I’m much more likely to bend.

So my question: how do you handle a missed self-imposed deadline? Do you:

  1. Push back the overall deadline?
  2. Double up the next day to stay on track?
  3. Make up the deadline over the weekend (which you’ve presciently given yourself off)?
  4. Do a little extra over the next few days to keep up?
  5. Something else entirely?

Also, do you change what you do depending on the situation (i.e. if you’re behind because a particular section was hard and needed the time or because life got in the way)?


4 Responses to "How do you handle a missed self-imposed deadline?"
  1. Flail for a while in self-recrimination, then decide to make it up on the weekend. When that doesn’t work, push back the overall deadline.

    Honestly, the deadline-setting piece of my brain doesn’t seem to have any conception of my actual capacity. I’m forever setting goals that seem reasonable, but then I don’t come anywhere close to making them. Ugh.

    tl;dr: I prefer externally-imposed deadlines, too. And I make them.

    • I’ve gotten better at figuring out actual capacity and leaving time for things like lunch, but I have a hard time pulling an all-nighter for a self-imposed deadline, even though I’d do it for an external deadline.

      I also wonder how much I’d get done instead of the obligatory flailing/self-recrimination — what could I have revised while writing this blog post??

      I’m my toughest boss, even if I sometimes miss my self-imposed deadlines 🙂

  2. I found the best way for me to keep deadlines was to make it tied into the public presentation of the work, having myself need to post to my blog. Doing that for months got me in a habit of getting things done for Tues. and Wed. Before I did that I would always bend on my deadlines.
    For other projects that don’t fit into the postable category, I end up pushing the deadline and doubling up.

    I like deadlines by someone else too, it makes me tied to finishing.

    • That’s a good call. I used to post progress bars on my blog, but that was when I was trying to finish my MFA — again, an external deadline, but an insanely scheduled one.

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