It’s a couple of days after our workshop where our team presented to over 40 small business owners to discuss Operations, Finance, and Marketing. The crowd favorite was, undoubtedly, Marketing as Dr. Mayo gave some great insight to social media and how to improve your business using it. I tried to make finance sexy, but that’s just too challenging as many have tried and most have failed. What I learned through the process was: putting on a workshop was hard work! Believe it or not, the IA Business Advisors team started planning the workshop months ago. The first thing we did was set the date for the workshop. Why did we set the date first? To give everyone a deadline. A very definitive end point. Thinking back to assignments and projects from high school and college, I realized that I still hate deadlines (mostly because just thinking about a deadline gives me an upset stomach) but where did the term “deadline” come from?

Origin of the word: Deadline

I think it’s important to note that our common usage today doesn’t quite line up with the first documented usage of the term. A quick google search for the origin of the term “deadline” shows that the term wasn’t originally used the way it is commonly used today. According to, the term has origins during the American Civil War. It was originally used as a term to describe an actual line in a prison camp in which prisoners would be shot if they passed. (Ummm…crazy!?)

Then, in the 1920s the term was used commonly by printers to discuss an actual time line that articles and prints needed to be submitted so papers would go out on time. (I think this is much closer to the definition I was looking for.)

Now that I’ve given you the quick summary of the terms history, there are three reasons why they are so effective.

Dictate starting points and checkpoints

It is literally impossible to plan a project or event without a deadline. Trying to develop checkpoints without understanding when the due date is like jogging without any distance goals or time goals (and if you’re like me, this is why I don’t go jogging).

In business, deadlines dictate starting points and checkpoints. A commonly used prioritizing technique is to categorize tasks into four buckets. Urgent and Important (usually done first), Urgent and Not Important (done next), Not Urgent but Important (done third), and Not Urgent and Not Important (done last.) You can’t put tasks into any of these buckets without understanding what the deadline is. This is why creating deadlines is important to both you and your staff. Don’t delegate a task without assigning a deadline.

Reduces procrastination by creating a sense of urgency

If things never seem to get done at your business, it could be because of procrastination – every business owner’s nemesis! Setting deadlines for yourself and your staff on projects and tasks helps reduce procrastination – it’s still very hard to completely remove all procrastination – by creating a sense of urgency.

If you ask your staff to get a project done and say, “Whenever you have time” or, “Whatever your schedule allows”, this project will probably end up in the Not Urgent but Important bucket.

Think about this: If the government didn’t set a deadline for your taxes, would you still file your taxes by April 15? Most of us wouldn’t and I might be guilty of this, too. Without a deadline, things would never get done!

© Individual Advantages, LLC. 2015

Mary Smith

Mary has been with IA Business Advisors for 6 years. She graduated with a bachelor's in English literature with a minor in psychology, and is currently working towards her master's in organizational leadership. She enjoys writing and produces blogs for IA and several of IA's clients. Her favorite aspect of writing is the research.

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