Internal and External Deadlines (And Book Update)

** The book will be going live sometime this week (and at the VERY latest, next week), and I do hope you pick yourself up a copy! **

My plan was to have the book out today – but like anyone who is travelling for their first time, you forget to plan for unexpected delays: Longer check-in time than expected, longer security line, visa issues (which I know all too well about), and so on.

My goal was to have the book out today, but I ran into so many hurdles it’s a surprise I am still running at all. However, like anything, the important part is to draw lessons from the outcome, and move on.

The book IS done, but just going through some final editing and formatting steps. Hopefully it will be going live sometime this week – so stay tuned!

But now, the equally interesting part- what I have learned so far from the process.

What I Have Learned So Far From Writing a Book

Writing a book has been more than an exercise is writing and editing – it has been a micro experiment in launching a product.

The most recent lesson I learned is be careful when committing to deadlines, especially external deadlines. There are two different forms of deadlines; external and internal. Telling myself that I was to have a rough draft done by August 1st would be an internal deadline, publishing that I will launch the book on August 20th is a external deadline.

Internal Deadlines

Internal deadlines are important, and necessary. They serve as a motivator towards execution and completion. They help us focus on what needs to get done, and when. However, they also require more intrinsic motivation – especially if you are a team of one (as I was mostly for this book). If you miss an internal deadline, no one will notice, and no one will care.

For this reason internal deadlines can be dangerous. In fact, most procrastination (in my opinion) comes from a lack of follow thru on internal deadlines; the deadlines you set for yourself but have yet to follow through on.

On one hand it’s good that no one will notice you missing an internal deadline – it means you can set ambitious internal goals and objectives. Writing a book about my university experiences and advice was an ambitious internal goal, and it wasn’t something I wanted to go public with right away, in case I changed my mind.

However, that advantage carries with it certain disadvantages too. If you never commit to something beyond a promise to yourself, you are placing a lot of faith in your own personal ability to carry through. Sharing a goal or objective with friends, family and peers can be highly motivating.

This is where you must make a personal decision – at what point do you transition deadlines from internal to external? At what point do you share your personal goals with those around you?

External Deadlines

The nice thing about internal deadlines is that they are highly malleable – they can be altered, changed, and tweaked to adjust to conditions at the time. External deadlines, on the other hand, are highly static. Once you set one (as I did) you should do everything in your power to meet that deadline.

Why does it matter whether or not you deliver on the promised deadline? Your inability to meet deadlines erodes the market’s faith. If you are continuously late, the market (and your employer, your co-workers, and your peers) will come to think you are naturally late when meeting deadlines. This means people will come to place little, if any, faith in your promised deadlines.

However, external deadlines can also be a great motivator. Telling yourself you will do something is a good first step, but as I explained above, it is in no way binding. You can alter that promise in any way you want, and no one (but you) will ever know. Publicly announcing something is entirely different – it’s like holding your own feet to the fire – you are announcing what you are going to do, and when you are going to do it.

When to Transition from Internal to External

So, what does it all mean to you?

Here’s what I learned: you should take a calculated approach to anything new, and this approach should be the transition (sometimes gradual, sometimes expedited) from internal to external deadlines.

When you find any new project, goal or task, first explore it from an internal perspective. Depending on the task at hand, you may have varying amounts of time, but use this time to figure out what kind of commitment you are making, how much time it will take, and whether or not you will be able to complete it.

From there, begin setting internal deadlines for yourself to meet certain steps of completion. By following these deadlines you will be able to get started on the task without having to make a public commitment (as you may still be unsure as to your commitment level).

Finally, as you start to draw near to completion, begin sharing the project with others. Begin setting external deadlines to both hold yourself responsible for completion, but to also motivate you to the finish line – its in the last kilometer of a 10 kilometer run that we need the most motivation.

However, don’t feel that your first external deadline has to take the form of a be-all-end-all. Use small steps to both publicize completion, and allow yourself room for manoeuvring. This was another lesson I learned: rather than committing to the book in finalized form, I should have committed to having a final draft done (beta of the literary world?). By only committing to a final draft, I would have left myself with manoeuvring room to adjust to the situations that arose.

None the less, this process continues to be educational and enlightening – and I am thankful that I have been given the chance to walk down this path.

The book will be going live sometime this week (and at the VERY latest, next week), and I do hope you pick yourself up a copy! 



Blair Livingston



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