I've written previously about the importance of holding yourself to a schedule and not a deadline. There might be occasions when deadlines make sense, but I'm convinced that when it comes to doing important work over the long-term, following a schedule is much more effective.
When it comes to the day-to-day grind, however, following a schedule is easier said than done. Ask anyone who plans to workout every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, and they can tell you how hard it is to actually stick to their schedule every time without fail.
To counteract the unplanned distractions that occur and overcome the tendency to be pulled off track, I've made a small shift in how I approach my schedule. My goal is to put the schedule first and not the scope, which is the opposite of how we usually approach our goals.
For example, let's say you woke up today with the intention of running three miles this afternoon. During the day, your schedule got crazy and time started to get away from you. Now you only have 20 minutes to workout.
At this point, you have two options.
The first is to say, "I don't have enough time to workout today," and spend the little time you have left working on something else. This is what I would usually have done in the past.
The second option is to reduce the scope, but stick to the schedule. Instead of running three miles, you run one mile or do five sprints or 30 jumping jacks. But you stick to the schedule and get a workout in no matter what. I have found far more long-term success using the this approach than the first.
On a daily basis, the impact of doing five sprints isn't that significant, especially when you had planned to run three miles. But the cumulative impact of always staying on schedule is huge. No matter what the circumstance and no matter how small the workout, you know you're going to finish today's task. That's how little goals become lifetime habits.
Finish something today, even if the scope is smaller than you anticipated.