Getting Things Done

Maybe it’s that adrenalin rush.  Or perhaps the way panic focuses my mind.  Whatever.  I love deadlines.  While I don’t particularly agree with the idea that “Failure is not an option”—often failure is our greatest teacher—I am totally sold if failure is replaced with “missing deadlines.”

Like many people, I don’t often jump on work or other chores as soon as they appear.  I diddle and dawdle.  I write totally unnecessary emails and research things I have no earthly reason to know.

But the minute a deadline looms, I am totally there.  Focused.  Involved.  Awake.  But it has to be real.  Self-imposed deadlines don’t always work.  “I’ll make that call tomorrow,” often becomes the day after, and then the day after that.  I’ve learned that I have to make deadlines and I have to make them real.

Making them real means making them public—that is, making sure that others know I have this deadline.  That’s easy when it is something I am doing for a client.  “Ill have this to you by….” works for me.  It doesn’t even matter if the client isn’t good at deadlines and wouldn’t actually notice if I missed this one.  I know there is a time set and I am too neurotic to miss it.

Just making it public doesn’t work so well for me if the public isn’t actually involved.  For example, the things I need to do for my business (or my sanity) that impact only me.  I have to find something else.  “When I write this blog, I can have a cookie.”  Treats, in other words, can keep me on schedule, though it works better when the thing has become a habit.

For the first few years I was consulting, I had a really hard time tracking my hours.  There was kind of deadline—each month I needed to submit an invoice and so, for most of my clients, I needed to know how much time I had spent doing work for them.  More, I needed to know when those hours were spent and for what purpose.  The treat?  When I got it right, I would get paid.  If I didn’t, payment would be delayed.  The habit—6 weeks of forcing myself to record things done at my computer as soon as I was finished and nightly to make sure that everything else such as things done off site, was recorded before I closed down for the night. Habits, while hard to make are equally difficult to break.

What do you do to keep yourself on track and on time?

Janet Levine works with nonprofits and educational organizations, helping to keep them on track for increasing their fundraising capacity.   Learn more at



About janetlevineconsulting

For over 20 years, Janet Levine has worked for and with nonprofit and educational organizations, helping to grow their advancement programs. Her consulting company, Janet Levine Consulting, serves a wide range of organizations from small, all-volunteer agencies to major national organizations. She regularly teaches courses in non-profit management, fundraising and grant development, both face-to-face and online at In addition to her nonprofit work, Janet brings years of experience as a business and sales manager in the for-profit sector. She has an MBA from the Graziadio School of Business at Pepperdine University.
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