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Deadlines are necessary—in life and in business. They keep things moving. They keep people focused. They’re the kick in the ass most employees need to accomplish anything of real value. My father, who worked as an entrepreneur and real estate investor, credited difficult deadlines which pushed limits but made him successful.

But an arbitrary deadline is not the same as a hard one, which is comprised of a solid date, an unmovable time, and a concrete expectation.

Truth is, humans rarely hold themselves to arbitrary deadlines. When was the last time you said “I’ll start dieting tomorrow” and actually did it? Never!

Yet, we all manage to hit hard deadlines. When those deadlines—a plane taking off, a friend’s wedding, an important exam, a Spartan Race—are non negotiable, we show up. We’re never late.

The challenge with deadlines isn’t the work. It’s holding ourselves accountable. If you’re constantly missing deadlines, you’re doing it all wrong. Here are my four tips for setting hard deadlines and hitting them—every damn time.

1) Take ownership

Your friend may have landed his dream job after searching for only six months, but that doesn’t mean you will. Your cousin went from sitting on the couch to running a marathon one month later—you might need more time and training to make it happen. Basing your goals off of someone else’s achievements will set you up for failure. Move at your own pace. The important thing is to just move.

2) Write it down

When your deadline is staring you in the face everywhere you look, you can’t ignore it. Keep a calendar in your room or office, program a reminder in your phone, write it on your arm in black, permanent marker. I don’t care how you do it—just record your deadline and your goal and review both every day. Trust me, it works.

Don’t have the motivation to wake up at 4:30 a.m. to exercise? Program an alarm on your phone titled as your end goal and get your ass up. Worried you can’t kick your sugar habit? Place sticky notes on your fridge and kitchen cabinets of all the reasons you’re working toward a healthier lifestyle. If you want to succeed, take full responsibility for the changes you’re making.

3) Aim for achievable, but not easy

It’s easy to fall off track when we have crazy expectations. Completing ten Spartan races in one day is (probably) not realistic. Neither is dropping 20 pounds in one week. Do your research. Get real. What makes sense for your current lifestyle?

This doesn’t mean you should make your deadlines easy. The universe will reward those who take action, so do the work and do it well. But recognize when you’re asking too much of your body and mind. You’re not chasing perfection—you’re chasing the best version of yourself.

4) Tell the world about it

Saying your goals and deadlines out loud makes them real. Relay your daily goals to your significant other every morning, post your deadline to your friends on Facebook, or tell the staff at your gym. Informing somebody else about your deadline will hold you more accountable.

Whether it’s your business, fitness, or overall lifestyle, it’s up to you to set the hard deadline. No one else is going to do it for you. Lock in a date, set your motivation, and root your goals into place—and you’ll never miss a deadline again.\

Oh, and I’ll throw one more in there. Surround yourself with GREAT people. The kind of people that will pull you up in life, hold you accountable, and push you to hit your goals.

Want more hard-hitting advice on resiliency, leadership, and whole-body health?

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