Deadlines and Dreadlines

Cute title, huh? I thought so.

But seriously, let’s talk about the two. We all know deadlines.

“Get this stuff done.”


Two kwanzaas from now.”

That’s an awkward time and the project fills a weird niche, but hey, that’s a deadline all the same.

But what does the deadline actually do for us?


They’re pretty swell, right? Deadlines can be months long or weekly checkpoints, but overall we use them to stay focused. And everyone needs them. It’s nice to say your startup/team is a casual group. But that does not equate to “we do casual projects”. In fact, it shouldn’t.

Now deadlines keep us on task, but what on earth are dreadlines? These are deadlines that don’t mean anything pertinent to a project. Remember that kwanzaa deadline from above? That’s sort of a tricky one. A kwanzaa deadline only works if your project happens to be kwanzaa-oriented. Otherwise, you’re just picking an arbitrary stopping point.

In short, you’re not generating a deadline based on your project.

I have seen so many projects roll up in the third quarter saying “Here’s a project that will be awesome. It needs to be done and live right on New Year’s Day.

Jan 1’s a big target by startups or, really, any business.

That’s not to say Jan 1’s, off limits. Some businesses legally have to get projects up and running for investor contracts or the like. If that’s the case, hey, Jan 1’s not just convenient; it’s mandatory.

For the rest of us though, Jan 1 is just a nice place to start. Same thing with deadlines of ‘At The Top Of The Month’. Why?

Why the top (or bottom) of the month?

Is that enough time for the project? Is it too long? Have you figured any of that out?


*ahem* Anyway…

The point is, your deadline should mean something. It should be based off: What your team is capable of How your budget is looking It should factor for any potential hiccups.

This set of parameters represents your project’s scope and it should be the guiding star for what is reasonable.

The next definition of a dreadline is tied to that itinerary. As soon as you have a deadline based on all of those things, it can be easy to think that you have enough time for adding a couple swanky new things.

Here’s why that’s not the smartest:

Imagine you’ve organized a race. It’s a nice race. The Mayor’s cleared the streets for it. Everyone’s excited and you estimate it should take one hour to complete, even by the slowest accounts. Wonderful.

Then...two weeks before the race begins, you decide to shift the starting posts, or some of the checkpoints. Not only that, you’ve kept the finish line in the same place and are expecting it to still take an hour...

This happens in a project too. The deadline has been determined by the original scope of the project...and then you throw in new features and objectives...and the deadline remains.

CONGRATULATIONS, you just beaned this deadline pokemon in the head with a malignant stone and…’s evolving!... … … …into a DREADLINE

Now your whole web development team reels because the deadline no longer sounds like a goal -- it sounds like a threat. They WILL get this done even if you already figured out what was possible in previous meetings and are overstepping those plans.

So! To sum up. What is a dreadline?


It's completely normal for our clients to change their ideas about our web development projects when we are mid-stream. And, it's really easy for us to accommodate our clients wishes as long as we can also move the budget and timeline.

When a client is adding to the scope but unyielding to adding to budget and timeline, we suddenly have a dreadline.

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