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Deadlines are key to achieving goals

“A deadline is a negative inspiration. Still, it’s better than no inspiration at all.”
– Rita Mae Brown

It’s one thing to set a goal. It’s another thing to write that goal down. If you really want to achieve something, however, you’ll set a deadline.

Giving yourself a deadline creates a sense of urgency. If you’ve ever asked somebody out on a date, you probably didn’t do it without actually setting the date. On the other hand, we all have a distant cousin we have every intention of visiting someday, but most of us will never get around to it. Without the deadline, it’s too easy to continue pushing things off.

The deadline also gives you a baseline date from which to create deadlines for all the smaller goals required to achieve the larger one. For example, if I set the goal of traveling out of the country in two months and I know it takes 4-6 weeks to get a passport, I better give myself a deadline to apply for that passport by the end of this week! If you’ve got that hot date at 8 0’clock tonight, I highly recommend you be in the shower no later than 7.

Big running deadlines are a little easier to set than other goals in life. They’re called race dates, and all you need to do is circle them on your calendar and pay your registration fee. It’s the smaller deadlines that are a little more difficult. If you’re training for a marathon, you might want to have run your third 20 mile run three weeks before race day. You’ll therefore want to run your first 20 mile run about 8 weeks before race day. Of course, that means you need to schedule all the previous runs leading up to then so you’re prepared to go 20 miles on that day.

One might say that the key to moving forward is going backward. Start with a goal. Give it a deadline. Then figure out all the things you need to accomplish before you can achieve your goal. (My daughter calls them “goalettes”.) You may find that you don’t have enough time to accomplish your goal. That’s fine. Trust me, it’s the easy way to find out. Just re-adjust your deadline and work backward from there!


Written by

Brian Darrow is a running coach in St. Petersburg, FL who specializes in online coaching for beginners. Follow him at

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