Disney Was Right – Everyone Needs Deadlines

I’m sitting between two summertime favs: vacation and the 4th of July.

mickey mouse head in the sky a firework

Last week, I traveled to Florida with my family for an early summer getaway. This coming weekend I’ll once again kick back for some R&R. Deadlines, obligations and work in general sit on the back burner when I’m in this mood. Truthfully, work never really escapes my mind for long, so it struck me as a metaphysical reminder last week as I walked through Downtown Disney and passed a construction wall painted with this quote from Walt Disney himself: “Everyone needs deadlines.”

Yes, they do.

Disney’s full quote is this: “Everyone needs deadlines. Even the beavers. They loaf around all summer, but when they are faced with the winter deadline, they work like fury. If we didn’t have deadlines, we’d stagnate.”

I’ve met only a few people who get all their work done in advance. Typically, it’s the deadline or due date that makes people, and their work, come to life. Perhaps it’s the combination of obligation, expectation and commitment that a deadline encapsulates. Maybe it’s the focus a good deadline engenders that propels productivity.

I know it does for me. Sure, I can plan out my work days, weeks, even months in advance. I can begin projects and feel the satisfaction of moving them forward. Yet nature abhors a vacuum and as I find myself working seamlessly along something comes along to demand my immediate attention. My progress begins to stagnate until that beautiful, bellowing deadline comes into view.

Deadlines save the day because they present you with a line you don’t want to cross. Take the “soft” deadlines in the form of homework I give my coaching clients to keep them engaged in self-discovery. Or the careful plans I create for clients that simultaneously nurture and drive large-scale communication and change projects, replete with milestones and end dates. Even the publishing deadlines I set for myself with this blog keep me honest to my goals.

The successes that Walt Disney enjoyed in his life are owed, in part, to the creation of and adherence to deadlines. Without deadlines, Disney’s creative impulses could have meandered for long periods of time, moving from one project to the next without a clear sense of completion. He could have birthed a million great ideas, and never seen one to fruition. He did the opposite. He understood that creativity realizes its highest power through the eyes of others. Creativity can also realize its highest power through pressure. Over 40 years, Disney kept up a steady stream of output. It’s not hard to image that the only way he could have consistently kept this pace was by using deadlines to anchor his company’s output.

So what can we, as working professionals, learn from Disney? How can we use deadlines to our best advantage? What follows are some guidelines to build deadlines into your day-to-day work life:

  1. Find any opportunity to create a deadline: Whether it’s a one day project or a longer-term plan, build deadlines into your work, big and small.
  2. Link your deadlines, and the goals they are meant to achieve, together. Deadlines should form a framework supporting your work. Expand the framework by connecting each end date.
  3. In terms of an entire career, look to the “season” of your work life, like the beavers in Walt’s quote, and decide how long you should realistically devote to a phase before moving on to the next. Set your own career “deadlines” and delineate the signs you’ll need to heed them.

Everyone needs deadlines, from beaver to creative icon and everyone else in between.


One Comment

  1. Steve Holloway November 14, 2016 Reply

    Out of all the quotes on the walls this year, in June, it’s the only one that stuck in my head and I say it daily. We make custom cups for everyone, and deadlines are daily, and we get the jobs done. Nice to read you also carried back his education and it lives on.

    Steve Holloway
    iCerakote LLC
    Milton Florida
    Facebook search: icerakote

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