Set Intermediate Deadlines to Stay on Track

Get a head start on deadlines by using more of them. Get-It-Done Guy explains how to use intermediate deadlines to help manage your time more effectively. 

Stever Robbins
2-minute read

Set Intermediary DeadlinesManaging deadlines well is something everyone has to do. Let's say you're a college student and you've been assigned an essay due next Friday, a week away. But this isn't such a hard essay—it's for Professor Robbins who we all know is a pretty easy grader. As long as you turn it in, you're golden. Besides, it's an assignment that will take far less than a week's worth of work, so you put it off until later. But before you know it, you end up approaching the deadline with something less than perfect. How can you make sure you'll do the essay (or your marketing report, or your project plan) sometime before 3 a.m. the night before it's due?

Even for short projects, use intermediate deadlines. Tell yourself you'll write a full draft by midweek, way before the essay is due, to allow for some buffer time and to stay on track.

Setting intermediary deadlines for yourself accomplishes a few goals. It gives you a better sense of how long it's going to take to finish the work—before the actual deadline. It also gives you some extra time to think about the work before it's due, in case a brilliant idea for how to make the paper even better strikes. Intermediate deadlines force you to check in and stay on schedule, so you can avoid pulling those dreaded all-nighters. 

If an essay is assigned Monday and is due the following Tuesday, tell yourself that by Wednesday you'll have all the research for the paper done, and the outline created. These are your first milestones. Then note that on Friday you'll have a complete draft. You'll edit the day before it's due, the final deadline.

No matter what project you're planning, set intermediary milestones every two to three days. By setting deadlines for major chunks of the work early, you'll notice quickly if you're getting off track, and you'll have time to catch up.

Plus, if you realize you don't like the work you put in earlier in the week, scrap it. You still have days to spare. If you love it though, that's great! You might even have timed your own deadline with the start of the weekend, so your Friday night is free to party!

Young overworked businessman image courtesy of Shutterstock


About the Author

Stever Robbins

Stever Robbins was the host of the podcast Get-it-Done Guy from 2007 to 2019. He is a graduate of W. Edward Deming’s Total Quality Management training program and a Certified Master Trainer Elite of NLP. He holds an MBA from the Harvard Business School and a BS in Computer Sciences from MIT.