Stop Procrastinating: Set Deadlines and Suffer the Consequences

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Catherine Hughes

Director of the 8 Women Dream Project at 8 Women Dream
Catherine’s dream is to make 8 Women Dream the premier online publication for women looking to pursue their dreams. She is a published author, a freelance writer, and a guide for those who want their dreams to come true online. Catherine would someday like to be invited to speak at TED about her observations about her 8WD project inviting women to take a chance on their dreams. Wine was required... Catherine posts on Sunday evenings and fills in dream stories as needed. If you aren't sure how to comment on this story, click here.

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Set Deadlines and Suffer the Consequences

I’ve been thinking about consequences, actions, values, procrastination, and deadlines all week.

Tonight while I waited for my son to finish his last-minute homework, I realized I had put-off starting my post all weekend. Turns out . . . I am no different than my son.

Boom — there it is: procrastination.

The consequences of my procrastination is that I am going to be up late writing this post . . .  because I have a post deadline — much like my son’s I-have-to-get-up-and-go-to-school deadline.

Why is it that we seem to be motivated only by deadlines, even when it is something we love doing?

Okay, maybe not love in my son’s case with his homework, but many of us do tend to procrastinate when it comes to completing the activities that will move us forward successfully with our dreams.

Procrastination is wrapped up in the priority we assign to a particular task based upon our core values.

One of my core values is being a good mom, and this weekend was one of those rare times when no other teenagers invaded our home.

I had my son all to myself.

Well, all to myself and his video games.  We both took a nap Saturday afternoon.  He slept on the futon on the floor while I snored on the couch.  No TV.  Just the sounds of neighbors cutting lawns, children playing in the distance and an occasional barking dog. We talked until we both fell asleep.

I had many delicious writing ideas, but instead of getting up and writing, I stared out the window at the changing trees, while the bees made music bouncing up against the screens.  The nap helped my son and me stay up late to watch Saturday Night Live.  We laughed at the same skits.

I enjoyed every minute of it.

Today turned into one of those Northern California Indian summer days where the sun beats hot far into the sky as you feel winter whispering in the distance.  It calls out to you to be outside enjoying the final days of summer. My son and I decided to go for a walk through the state park and throw sticks into the lake.  We skipped stones.  He did push-ups on the park benches. It was a perfect afternoon.

Why did I choose time with my son over writing my post?

Because one of my core values is being a good mom, and a good mom (in my mind) knows when to take advantage of a rare opportunity to spend quality time with her child.  Especially when the child will be off to college in a blink of an eye and summer is ending right before her eyes.

What activity aligns you with your core value is the activity you will choose to complete.  By default you will do the action that speaks to who you are at that given moment.

The result of the choice or action that you take determines your consequence.

I spent time with my son and the consequence is both the reward of the memory we made and the punishment of staying up late to write my post.

I can accept that sometimes I will do a late night post because I’ve spent time being a mom.  But it’s important for me to watch this core value and take note when it might be getting in the way of other actions that could bring me closer to my dream.

Actions that line up with one dominant core value can be seductive. . . but we can’t let one core value dominate over our other values — you know . . .  like keeping a roof over your children’s head or sticking to a budget.

The types of consequences we experience tell us when we are favoring one core value over another.

When you procrastinate, it is usually because you are wrestling with two opposing core values.  One is pulling you in one direction, while the other is pulling you in the opposite direction, so your answer in the present moment is to do nothing — to procrastinate.

Think about the friend who takes a long time to leave their spouse.  The friend might be dealing with conflicting core values: one that tells her that she deserves to be treated better, and another that reminds her of how much she wants a long-term marriage.  Her solution in the present moment is to put off making a decision.

This is where having deadlines can help you sort out which core value needs to be listened to the most in the present moment.

Deadlines create pressure to get moving — to take action. Deadlines spark fear and initiate feelings of pain-avoidance. Deadlines make you look at your core values in the present moment and force you to make a choice.

Deadlines create action.

Action leads to choices.

Choices lead to consequences.

So here I am writing this post at 11:00 at night. One value earlier was to be a mom, until this post deadline lay looming over my head — reminding me how much I value 8 Women Dream. This deadline forced me to remember what else I value and to take action. The consequence will be how proud I am to have completed this post for you to read in the morning.

What consequence would you like to experience this week?

Do you want to spend less money so you can add more to your savings towards that vacation you’ve always dreamed of? Do you want to walk three miles everyday so you can fit into that black dress you plan to where at your first speakers convention next June?

Set a deadline and enjoy the consequences.

Even if they make you tired the next day.


  • I have no idea what procrastination is! (J/K) Deadlines are important for lots of things, especially chores. yuck. I have been so busy that the conflict of my commitment this year to always have an inviting “clean home” and “time with son” and “work” are in a constant state of upheaval. Well its not that bad, cause time with son and work usually win. Would you like to come over and help me clean? xox Rem

  • Katie

    You are speaking my language! Thank you for being so honest with this post.

  • Gabriel Anderson

    Interesting concept. I think your trusted subscribers want more posts similar to this one.