Deadlines and Specific Targets

As I train on my own, set my own goals and have a very independent nature; it's essential for me to set deadlines.

You may be aware of the psychological phenomenon in which the time taken to finish a task increases or decreases, depending on the time given to complete it. I'm sure you can recall occasions in which you've had very little time to do something, yet pushed yourself to finish anyway. Likewise, occasions in which you've had ample time, yet sauntered along slowly – or even left things until the last-minute.

Without a looming deadline, I've found that it's very easy to coast along with my goals. There’s little incentive to push yourself when you believe that you have plenty of time!

Sticking To Deadlines

I've found that deadlines are far more effective when…

  • They are set externally (preferably by an authority figure or default).
  • I'm held accountable.
  • I have consequences / incentives to get things done.
  • They’re broken up into smaller checkpoint deadlines.
  • They're taken seriously and monitored.
This may seem obvious, but as I point out frequently, never confuse knowing with doing!

It's always best to have a goal deadline that coincides with a meaningful date. For example, aiming to get in great shape for an upcoming holiday or important event. These types of deadlines come inbuilt with a strong motivational pull, an externally set time limit, as well as consequences and incentives.

When I'm only accountable to myself, it can be easy to let deadlines slip by. After all, I can just set another deadline… right? A strong why and self-discipline can help of course; However, even when I want something badly, that’s not always enough to get things done to schedule. That's not to say I won't make what I want a reality, just there's no real push to achieve it before a generically set deadline.

My solution

Using the above-mentioned points, this is how I've turned my deadlines into well… ACTUAL deadlines!

Externally Set Deadlines

Goals will usually take as long as the time allowed to complete them. For physique transformation goals, finding an externally set deadline is easy. Simply look around bodybuilding / fitness forums for body transformation competitions. Many competitions come with a selection of cash prizes, holiday trips and expensive gadgets (I think that adds incentive to finish on time!) Personally, I made better progress in the 98 day burnthefat competition than I did in the 6 months prior. All I had to do was get the book and I can now participate free of charge in all future competitions – which is great for when I need a boost in progress and motivation.

If you find the thought of entering a physique competition particularly intimidating, that's ok. If you have a holiday or one-off event coming up this year, use that instead. If that's not an option or you have a non-physique related goal, then seek out an authority figure you can hire as a coach to set deadlines for you. Alternatively, you can ask an authority figure their opinion on how long they think your goal should take to complete. Any imaginative way you can think of in which to free yourself from a generic inconsequential deadline will do… get creative! This won't be the case for every deadline you set, but if you make use of the rest of this article, that will help bridge any shortfalls.


As mentioned previously, if I'm only accountable myself it can be easy to justify missing deadlines. Here are a few forms of accountability that I've used to help keep me on track.


Because of my self-reliant personality, as well as previously held fears; I've never been the type to seek out support or encouragement. I guess I was never really secure with the idea of asking for help and being rejected, or having to rely on anybody but myself to get things done. Also, encouragement tends to be a two-way deal and I wasn't prepared to commit the time.

In hindsight, I realise that this was an error in judgement. Support in the form of encouragement (In terms of both giving and receiving), can be immeasurably valuable. In retrospect, I wish I'd put this into practice during my July – Sept Burn The Fat Challenge!

There are different kinds of encouragement, ranging from “tough love” kicks up the ass to sideline cheerleading. The kind of encouragement required depends on your frame of mind. If you struggle to take on board criticism and take everything personally, the tough love approach will probably do more harm than good. There's no cookie cutter answer since everybody is different, although I would say that any support is better than no support in most situations.

The predominant reason for me opening up a YouTube account was to find like-minded people to be accountable to – along with getting feedback on my videos. I quickly found many great people out there willing to offer encouragement (in its various forms), and that my fears were entirely unjustified.

I also sought out support and encouragement from my girlfriend. When a close friend / family member / loved one actively offers support you become driven to new heights. They know you well, they know which excuses are valid and which excuses and not! It’s also a lot more difficult to simply “disappear” when the going gets tough – unlike on forums and social media sites etc. If you enlist the support of your family / close friends / loved ones it shows that you're committed, that you are willing to see your goal through to the end.


There's probably a better word than humiliation, however, it's the word I've chosen to use. Essentially, this form of accountability involves putting your dreams / goals / desires out there for all to see. If you declare that you want to achieve something by a certain date – and you let as many people as possible know, you're going to make damn sure that you do it. Generally speaking, nobody wants to look like an idiot or feel like a failure, so this type of accountability uses negative reinforcement. You have to be in the right place mentally to use this approach. If you cannot distance yourself emotionally from the week to week fluctuations in progress, this type of strategy may do more harm than good. This is a burning all bridges / excuses type of approach that requires absolute faith in your plan, as well as in your ability to be committed and consistent.

Consequences and Incentives

Sometimes goal deadlines have consequences and incentives built into them, as with the aforementioned body transformation competition; however, I've found that adding my own consequences and incentives to a deadline can be extremely motivating as well.

In order to facilitate this approach, I created my own performance goal reward system. It probably sounds more complicated than it actually is! In essence, I have a list of weekly performance goals such as

  • Cardio Completed (total minutes or distance)
  • Previous Bests Beaten
  • No. Weighted Exercises Preformed
  • HIIT Circuits Completed
  • Acceptable Diet Plan Compliance 90% +
If I meet my targets, I allow myself a certain amount of rewards (incentives) depending on how well I perform.

The incentives I use include

  • Reward meals / junk food
  • Buy / Watch a new movie
  • Trip to the cinemas
  • Few hours of computer gaming
  • Watch Favourite TV series
If at the end of the week I feel I used more rewards than I earned, I decide upon a consequence i.e. No watching new movies for the following week. Self-imposed discipline may seem a little extreme to some, however, every performance goal I set myself is within an acceptable level of control. I wouldn't use a system like this with outcome goals (i.e. weekly body composition goals), as outcome goals can be influenced by a myriad of factors outside of my direct control. A self regulated reward system can only really work if the targets are reasonable, and the only reason for non-compliance is laziness on the users behalf.

Checkpoint Deadlines

I've discovered that small checkpoint deadlines are a great way to keep progress flowing smoothly. In addition, this helps alleviate some of the daunting feelings associated with a big and challenging goal. So for example, a person sets a goal to drop 15 lbs in 10 weeks, taking them from a bodyweight of 200 lbs to 185 lbs. That Person would need to drop an average of 1.5 lbs per week to meet that goal.

So their weekly checkpoint targets would be as follows

Week 0: 200
week 1: 198.5
week 2: 197
week 3: 195.5
week 3: 194

and so forth.

When used in conjunction with the aforesaid consequences and incentives system; This approach positively reinforces the achievement of weekly targets – and by extension goals by final deadlines.

In hindsight, it occurs to me that the example in this article focuses on outcome targets as opposed to performance targets, the former being outside of direct control due to the random fluctuations in water weight etc. Nevertheless, you can use the checkpoint target system with performance goals such as

  • Cardio Completed (total minutes or distance)
  • Previous Bests Beaten
  • No. Weighted Exercises Preformed
  • HIIT Circuits Completed
  • Acceptable Diet Plan Compliance 90% +

The features I find most useful are

  • Formulas that estimate future body composition results based on your current rate of progression. This helps you focus on the big picture of your goal and how you're likely to progress long-term, as opposed to focusing on short-term fluctuations in results.

  • Formulas that calculate how much you will need to progress on a weekly basis to reach your body transformation goals by a chosen deadline. This automatically creates checkpoint deadlines with targets.

  • A consequences / incentives reward sheet. With this, you can create your own performance goal reward system.
The sheet has many other features also, but these features have helped me out the most so far.

Taking Things Seriously

In order to take deadlines seriously, you need to take your goals seriously. Even when I've adopted many of the systems discussed in this article, it's still me that needs to get things done. Deadlines only really have as much power as you give them. The strategies I've provided here may help you to push harder, but they will only work if you actually apply them consistently – or at all.

It’s not the end of the world!

Sometimes you may miss a deadline for reasons outside of your control, or you simply underestimate how long a particular goal should take to complete. It's not the end of the world! While it's a bad habit to treat deadlines like guidelines, then dismiss them out of hand when they approach. It's an even worse habit to become self-destructive when missing a deadline. The answer, as with most things lies somewhere in-between. If you miss a deadline, you must face the consequence/s (if any) and delay the incentive/s (if any) until you achieve your goal. You examine the progress you've made to date, then try to estimate a more reasonable deadline. If your goal had a one-off time-limit, then there’s nothing you can do about that. Beating yourself up and becoming self-destructive will be of no benefit, you can’t change the past. Remember that the only real mistakes are the ones we learn nothing from and continue to make. Take responsibility, learn from every experience and focus on what you can improve upon for future endeavours.

Specific Measurable Targets

A goal is almost always more effective when it includes specific measurable targets. A vague goal such as “I want to lose weight” is not much to go on. Technically, one could lose a single pound to achieve that goal. Also, setting a goal to lose x amount of weight may be measurable; however, it’s still not specific enough since the weight lost could include water and lean tissue (assuming you care about what type of weight you lose). Measurable targets such as waist circumference, body fat percentage and lean body mass are far greater indicators of body re-composition. If your goal is to attain a more aesthetic physique, use the aforementioned indicators in conjunction with how you feel and look in the mirror.
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