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Some deadlines are more meaningful than others. The meaningful ones are met and the ones that are not meaningful are not met – especially on an ongoing basis.
Let’s discuss the difference. For example, the deadline that’s pushed down by the boss for no other reason other than that the boss can set a deadline that’s not necessarily a meaningful deadline. Of course, it can be a dangerous endeavor to not meet the deadline or to not meet deadlines on a continuous basis. But ultimately it’s not that meaningful. We may get short-term compliance, but that’s a far cry from actual buy-in.
Meaningful deadlines are created by things that the content creator cares about. That could include an upcoming event or the publishing off a related piece that needs the content.
I think back to my days as a journalist. The newspaper was going to come out every day. That was a meaningful deadline because if you wanted to get your story into the newspaper you got it done on deadline. Of course then we added never stopping deadlines with online websites. The problem with that can be that if there is is now always a deadline. Technically every second can be a deadline. It can get meaningless by being too overwhelming. And longer pieces of content do take time to create. On the other hand you might have some content creators thrive on those quick-turn never ending deadlines. So in that case deadlines like that would be very meaningful.
Whether or not a deadline is meaningful is a truly personalized experience and decision.
Some tricks that I found that work to get to meaningful deadlines are ones that have something tangible happen close to them. For example, let’s say you have an event coming up and need to create content related to the event. That is non-negotiable. The event is starting at a certain time. People understand it, people want the event to go off without a hitch and it’s very clear and understandable (the event is at that time and here’s how much time we have left).
Another way to create a meaningful deadline is by figuring out what is something new that a team can create together. Something that will set them apart from the competition.
For example, let’s say you have a team of content gatherers going out to get stories from interviews. Traditionally those same content gatherers may have been taking a few days or weeks to write up the stories that were gathered in those interviews. But what if the tasks of content gathering and content creation are actually separated and the content gatherers go get the content, ship it over to the content creators and they create on a really tight deadline-a deadline that would’ve been impossible to meet by just a single person. But since they’re working as a team they’re able to meet that really tight deadline and look really good in front of their audience, their peers and others.
That’s certainly another example of a meaningful deadline.
Another way to create meaningful deadlines is to get on a publishing schedule. So let’s say we publish an article every day at a certain time. Once we agree to that time that’s the time the article publishes and it’s not negotiable. We know the article needs to publish, and needs to be done by when that time arrives.
Those deadlines are most meaningful when team members agree to those daily publishing routines. Sometimes early on in the project they might not be daily, they might be weekly. But one thing to notice is that when weekly deadlines are agreed to oftentimes articles still will not get done until the day before anyways.
How long does something take with one minute left on the clock? One minute.
Once the project is off to a good start it’s important to show early successes and share how publishing regularly does help the team, the business and the brand overall. Once those successes have been shared those daily deadlines will likely become more meaningful. Now, keep in mind that content marketing and storytelling projects do take a little bit of time to work and show successes – at least a few months.
How can content creators themselves create meaningful deadlines? Figure out what has meaning to you and then set a deadline around that specific motivation.
For myself I love to set immediate deadlines. For example when I have a good idea for a blog post or at least when I think it’s a good idea, I will most likely just sit down and write it and schedule it. You might have other motivations. So think about what they might be and then set goals around those.
I do believe that some storytelling can happen organically and off a strict schedule, but that really only happens once we have made it a habit. Especially before it has become a habit, we do need to set those deadlines to get things done because otherwise they likely will never get done. And you know what they say about stories that aren’t told-those stories die.
Set your deadlines and make them mean something to you.
This article was published in 2016 and updated in 2019 to include a podcast.