How to Accelerate Your Learning With Creative Deadlines

When you hear the word "deadlines," what comes to mind? An angry boss breathing down your neck as you bang out an overdue memo, right? Does the very thought make your blood pressure rise? Most of us have an unhealthy relationship with deadlines. We think of them as cruel constraints on our work. "If only those pesky deadlines would go away, I could accomplish anything," you may find yourself thinking.

Constraints, however, can actually be a good thing. They can be a powerful tool, helping us accelerate our learning in ways we never thought possible. And deadlines are among the most powerful constraints out there. They help us take vague "someday, maybe, when I have time" learning goals and turn them into "this day, this place, this time" realities.

Today, I'm going to show you how to set creative deadlines in order to achieve your learning goals. I'll give tips on how to keep your deadlines specific, as well as how to add extra accountability. Let's do this thing!

The Power of Creative Deadlines

Deadlines force you to focus. It's all too easy to procrastinate on even a very a specific learning goal if you don't have a concrete date (and, ideally, time and place) by which you plan to achieve it. When I was learning to juggle, for example, I had a show lined up before I even knew what I was doing (seriously, I had just learned from a guy I met on the street!). The pressure was on, and I responded accordingly.

To make deadlines work for you, they must be specific. When someone says, “I want to learn piano,” and that’s the extent of it, there’s no specific goal. And who’s to say when “learning piano” is actually achieved? Do they want to learn "Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star"? Do they want to be able to play a couple songs to entertain at family gatherings? Do they want to be able to solo like Stevie Wonder? Get specific about which you mean, and put it on your calendar.

How to Stay Accountable

Many of my learning goals have been tied to serious professional deadlines. I pre-sold 220 copies of my book to a nationwide company before I even wrote it...so you can bet I finished it on time! The same was true of learning to play the saxophone: I had a specific show where I planned to debut the instrument, and I rose to the occasion to make sure I didn't disappoint my audience.

 Your own career may not depend on your learning (although if it does, I challenge you to see that as an opportunity, not a chore), but you can still add some extra pressure to your deadlines. If you're learning the piano, invite all your friends and family to a "recital" at your house. Type up invitations and everything, make it official. This way, you'll have to at least show up and do something. It may not be brilliant, but I guarantee that having a deadline and an audience lined up will motivate you to learn way more than you ever would otherwise.

Deadlines Are Your Friend

I hope you now realize that when it comes to learning new skills, deadlines are not something to fear; they're something to embrace. When you commit to accomplishing your learning goals by a clear deadline (ideally one that has an audience or other form of external accountability), you'll be able to take your learning to a place you never imagined possible.

So, what are you waiting for? Write that goal down and put it on your calendar! I'm pumped to see what you'll achieve.

What Playing the Saxophone Can Teach You About Writing a Book or Starting a Business

So many of the things I've accomplished in life seemed impossible at first. Take playing the saxophone. The first time I put that instrument to my mouth, the result sounded like an angry, squawking goose. It was a far cry from the fantasy I had of playing like a master, my fingers dancing up and down the instrument with perfect flow. To be honest, I felt stupid for even trying to learn. What business did I, a juggling circus ringmaster turned public speaker, have with something that belonged in the hands of greats like Charlie Parker?