Can Crazy Impossible Deadlines Change Your Life? Or the World?

The other day I stumbled on this quote from Leonard Bernstein

"Two things are necessary for great achievement: a plan and not quite enough time."

I’m a huge believer in super tight deadlines. The longer something takes the less likely anything meaningful will happen. It drives others around me crazy at times. But over my years of experience, I’ve seen this truth played out again and again.


Here’s why crazy tight deadlines work:


1. Crazy tight deadlines force us to think differently.

They force people to jump in and “start dancing” quickly. They force us to think out loud and put ideas on a wall. They create a certain energy in the room.


2. Crazy tight deadlines force us to ignore the negative voices in our head.

And that’s a good thing. With enough time, we’ll often start listening to the voices that say, “That will never happen because of _____.” “We don’t have enough money or knowledge yet.” Or worse yet, “We’re not smart enough to do this.”


3. Deadlines that are a bit ridiculous give us less time to talk ourselves out of our best ideas.

You know this is truth. How many times have you seen time water down or completely erase a big idea?


4. Crazy tight deadlines force us to quickly outline the steps we need to make something happen.

Meetings are shorter when the deadline is shorter.


5. Crazy tight deadlines force us to get super honest about who is critical to the process.

Teams are tighter and leaner. We assign people tasks based on their true strengths.



Brains on Fire is in the change the world business.

It’s our role to help our clients drive change. We feel a huge responsibility to our clients. Our worst nightmare would be for our work together to become another strategy on the shelf, so we lean heavily on the practice of crazy tight deadlines.


The world needs more leaders to set big goals with crazy deadlines.

I love the first words you see on the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation website:

“We are impatient optimists working to reduce inequity.”

Don’t you love the phrase “impatient optimists?” The world needs more “impatient optimists.” We need more impatient, hopeful leaders to bravely set lofty goals and deadlines. Maybe we’d cure more cancers, end hunger and decrease the stigma of addiction.


So, when has a ridiculous deadline, personal or professional, helped you move forward? When has a goal with a crazy tight deadline changed the world? Tweet me at @robbinphillips

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