Tuesday, May 1, 2018

On Setting Deadlines

I often times set goals for myself such as "In 2 weeks I will complete this project". Its good to set goals but I think goals like this might not be the best. First of all, the completion date is a complete estimate of how long you think the project will take. But once we dive into the details we may run into all sorts of snags that might delay the progress of the project. Maybe its a strange bug or maybe it took a lot longer than you estimated to learn how to implement a certain feature. Since I am behind on the feature I end up feeling like I am behind and have more anxiety, due to a wrong initial best guess.

Goals are meant to serve you and if they don't then they should be eliminated or improved. Its not bad to have deadlines, but understand what they are. I like deadlines because they put constraints on what is possible and I am forced to prioritize (and actually ship). If I don't set any deadlines at all then I might end up working endlessly without shipping. That's the brilliance of 12 startups in 12 months. You are forced to build an MVP that isn't completely finished and you are forced to ship. If noone likes your product at worst you spend one month on it and have a learning experience.

A better way to set these deadlines might be to commit to putting work in. Why? Because you don't have complete control over how long something will take, but you do have complete control over how much work you put in. So instead your goal would be "I will commit to X hours a day working on this project". If you have a time frame then you would make sure the scope of your project is within that time frame.

Since I don't really have hard deadlines, I'm not really concerned if I am a little bit over, although I'll want to do a retrospective on why I was off. I'm more concerned that I am putting in the work towards the goal. Obviously if you have a hard deadline with a customer then you don't have an option, but if you are working independently on your own projects I'd recommend that you commit to putting in the work, rather than committing to a date.