I’m a big fan of false deadlines — milestones that force you to complete part or all of a task before its scheduled completion date. When I have a big project, the first thing I do is set a date to complete it. I then go through the process I teach in my goal setting workshop to create tasks and subtasks. But whenever possible, I’ll give myself a false deadline so that I ensure I stay on target. It can be as simple as sending a draft of a piece of writing to a friend to critique or as complex as testing out a new part of a talk on a safe audience.
Back when I first started out as a professional speaker, I was still active in Toastmasters. Whenever I’d have a big speaking event planned, I’d sign up for a speech at my club a month or so prior to it. This helped me in two ways. First, it forced me to complete either all or part of the speech ahead of time. Second, I was fortunate enough to belong to a club where I got both useful and effective feedback.
These days we’re all juggling work, family and other aspects of life so it can be tempting to allow a deadline to slip. You probably know the feeling: you have three months to do something that requires about five hours of your time and before you know it, you have only a week left to get it done. We’re all human so it’s in our nature to not get to a task until it becomes urgent — after all, life seems to always hammer us with urgent tasks. And don’t forget the temptation of having a little “me” time every now and then.
So if you’re a professional speaker and wondering if Toastmasters can still help you, the answer is “yes.” No matter how good a speaker you are, there’s always something helpful about giving a speech to a group of people that know a thing or two about speaking. And even if your local club isn’t that fantastic, at the very least you can use it as a false deadline.