Setting deadlines can provide self-motivation

July 14, 2016 | by Ken Walker

An apologetics-type ministry recently hired me to edit approximately 75 percent of the material out of a book it released a few years ago. They want to provide readers who are interested in this particular topic with an abridged version.

It’s a rather involved project, one that I expect to take eight or nine months to complete. I plan to tackle it the same way I do books that take less time, as well as articles that only require a few weeks or blogs I edit weekly: with a deadline schedule.

Setting a schedule

It doesn’t matter whether you are writing a 500-word blog or a 500-page book, without a deadline you are likely to never finish.

Now, many of my deadlines are set by outside forces, such as the client who needs raw material turned into a blog every week. Or magazine and web articles that are due in two or three weeks.

Yet others, like one manuscript I’m currently editing, won’t need to done for several months.

This is where the habit of establishing a schedule to keep myself on track comes into play. Whether it’s six days, six weeks or six months, I typically plan how much of a particular project needs to be on a daily, weekly or monthly basis. Then I budget so much time per day (or week) to reach the goal.

No sense of urgency

Many people who blog or write books are tickling their keyboards as a sidelight to their primary income-producing occupation. If that describes you, setting deadlines is even more crucial than someone who writes and edits fulltime.

Fail to do so and you are likely to end up like the man who hired me to rewrite and reorganize his manuscript more than three years ago. I took the project as far as I could and told him I needed his revisions to the first three sections, and some additional material. He has never given me his revisions. I think the responsibilities of his day job overwhelmed his best intentions.

Then there’s the man who asked me about editing his memoir, which has sat on the shelf for three years because of a family medical crisis. Although I revised the introduction and the first chapter as a sample edit, I’m still waiting to see whether he wants me to proceed. With no deadline in place, I don’t think he has developed a sense of urgency.

Counting the cost

In Luke 14, Jesus advised anyone who wanted to follow Him to first count the cost of being a disciple. The same principle applies to tackling a writing project. Count the cost of the time, effort, and expenses that you expect to be involved before launching out into the deep.

Once you have determined that you’re willing to pay the price, start setting deadlines for your writing. Without them, a million things will intervene and sidetrack you. Life happens.

Despite challenges of trying to fit writing into your life, self-imposed deadlines will do the same for you that they do for me: keep you focused on the task at hand. And, offer some self-discipline when the natural inclination may be to procrastinate for a day or two.

One of my favorite sayings is the only thing worse than having an overbearing boss is having no boss. Treat the deadlines you make like that boss you never cared for—and maybe you’ll get things written on time.

Topics: Leadership, Ministry, Teaching Resources, Vision

Ken Walker

An experienced freelance writer, co-author and book editor, Ken Walker edits blogs for several contributors to Church Central and has coached various bloggers for the site. A member of the Christian PEN (Proofreaders and Editors Network), he has co-authored, edited or contributed to more than 50 books. You can see samples of his work or ask about his services as a writing coach by going to or by e-mailing


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