Why I hate deadlines

. . . but I do love milestones


I have always found the word “deadline” a little uncomfortable.  So one day, I decided to look up its origin.  I don’t know where I originally found it, but there is a very good discussion on the wonderful “The Mavens’ Word of the Day” site, run by Random House.  Here we learn that the word originates in the American Civil War, as a line, drawn around a prisoners’ stockade, “over which no man could pass and live.”

Deadlines imply sanctions – and extreme ones at that.  There may be pressure, but there is no joy in deadlines.


Milestones, on the other hand, achieve the same effect, but are positive incentives.  They mark important, worthy, notable, successes.  They are therefore a cause for celebration.  Hurrah!

More milestones, or fewer?

Some project managers like to litter their plans with lots of milestones.  Others view this as just a little crass.


Me, I like lots of milestones:

more milestones = more successes

more successes = more celebrations

more celebrations = more motivation

The “so what?”

Milestone or deadline?  Your choice.
More or fewer?  Your choice.


One thought on “Why I hate deadlines

  1. Glen B Alleman


    I too don’t like deadline. The US DoD uses “Significant Accomplishment” and “Accomplishment Criteria” when ever possible.

    “Planned Deliverable” is another term that “says its name.”

    The best quote for deadline comes from Douglas Adams:

    “I love deadlines. I like the whooshing sound they make as they go by.”

    Problem is of you don’t have entry and exit criteria for each deadline, they’re just a rock on the side of the road that you see as you pass by.


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