First, let me say that meeting a deadline is not easy. It will probably never be easy. In fact, it's really, really hard. But it's not impossible.
And, no, I'm not an expert deadline-meeter. I've failed to meet a self-imposed deadline so many times that I've learned many things to share with you today. (Just look at the time stamp on this blog post if you dn't believe me.)
Make it Attainable
Sometimes you're not always the one setting the deadline or goal. But if you are, by all means, make it something you can reach! Difficult and challenging, yes. But 50k in a month is way more doable than 150k. Just saying. I'm aiming for 30k this time even though that still won't count as a success for NaNo. I know I'll thank myself later.
I've been skimming Write Your Novel in 30 Days by Jeff Gerke. One of his good points was that writing is made up of many small victories, not just the primary victory of hitting your goal. Guess what? If you celebrate those little victories, you have more frequent rewards to look forward to! Motivation, baby.
(Example: I'm starving and should be eating lunch, but I'm motivating myself to finish the blog post with my hunger.)
Okay, so maybe pick a better (and less painful) motivator than starvation. We're talking a movie night, expensive coffee, and a dinner out when you finish ... Nice things that will actually motivate you.
This is what reaching most deadlines requires. Pretend you're in Antartica for a month and go off the grid. Keep your phone on silent, ignore your family, don't take extra work shifts. Ideally, we'd all like to go to a cabin for six weeks, but for me it just means taking on less instead of doing less. Just don't do anything extra.
That allows you to buckle down and get it done. It's not always pleasant, but it's a reward in and of itself when you finish! Spend some time finding what works best for you before you get started so you've got your ideal space, your time, and then just knock. it. out.
Find a Partner
Everyone is statistically more successful with an accountability partner. Everyone. Whether it's a group (like Camp NaNo cabins) or one person, find somebody! Someone who will tell you to suck it up and get it done, but who will also listen to your problems and give you ideas, and try to encourage you. Writing is already hard before adding a deadline! So if you can find another writer who's willing to prod you along, you'll have someone who understands.
You'll also need someone who can tell you to take breaks. Breaks are vital to success because otherwise you'll burn out. (Trust me, I'm the burnout queen.) So even when you're on a deadline, you have to eat, sleep, and still take breaks. Even though it feels counterproductive to take a nap, a walk, or watch an episode of something ... it might be just what you need.
My go-to break is Netflix. It's the ultimate form of chill and as long as I have the willpower to pick only one episode, it's got a fixed end. Besides, as a writer, I almost always get an idea when watching something. Being a writer isn't only about writing.
I'm sure there are two hundred other tips I could throw at you, but I feel like that's a good start (and I'm still starving).
How do you meet a deadline? What incentives help motivate you?