Establishing Timelines & Deadlines

Having touched on the importance of deadlines, we’ll be covering something that’s equally important – how to establish deadlines for yourself and for others.

But first…The word “deadline” was actually coined in 19th century Civil War prisons as a physical line beyond which prisoners would be shot. These days, we view deadlines as firm instructions rather than a matter of mortality.

That being the case however, we still have a tendency to procrastinate and tap-dance around deadlines. So, what can you do when setting deadlines for yourself and others?

1. Co-establish deadlines and timelines

When it comes to planning a timeline and setting the initial deadline, don’t do so in a vacuum.

Both the person delegating a task and those who will be performing the task need to come together to establish a common understanding of what the actual work entails. This ensures that both timelines and deadlines are grounded in reality.

Moreover, co-establishing timelines and deadlines enables everyone involved to feel that they’re part of the process and – consequently – more involved in striving towards meeting the deadline.

2. Provide full context for a deadline

To illustrate, consider the following statements.
Statement #1: “You need to have that spreadsheet updated by this Friday.”
Statement #2: “You need to have that spreadsheet updated by this Friday so that Susan can incorporate the numbers in our board presentation on Monday.”

Which do you think would make you more willing to comply with the deadline? If you picked Statement #2, you’d be right. This is because an arbitrary date wasn’t just pulled from mid-air. Instead, the statement explains how both the deadline and the task fit into the larger picture, and giving that context can be a huge help when setting a deadline for others.

3. Highlight the consequences of delays

Another aspect of providing context is to highlight the potential consequences that could result from missing a deadline. Whilst punishment is not recommended, it’s worth framing a potentially missed deadline in terms of the fallout that could result.

In terms of the example used above, you could consider tagging on an additional sentence… Statement #2: “You need to have that spreadsheet updated by this Friday so that Susan can incorporate the numbers in our board presentation on Monday. If those numbers aren’t there for the review of our board members, we’re going to face a lot of pushback and roadblocks on this campaign we’re planning.”

Framing a deadline by including the consequences of missing it also the helps the person recognise/realise the value of their work.

4. Reinforce the importance of the deadline

“Set it and forget it”? Not with deadlines. If you think you can set a task deadline for yourself or someone else and forget about it – forget about it. Other tasks will crop up and priorities will change or shift, hence affecting deadlines.

If you’re not already doing so, using Microsoft Outlook’s calendar to schedule deadline reminders for yourself and your team is a great way to remind yourself of upcoming deadlines, or to reinforce important deadlines for your team members.

5. Set real deadlines, not fake ones

If you’re tempted to set fake deadlines (earlier than the real deadline) for others in order to buy yourself some buffer time… Don’t. If – somehow – you’ve been found to set fake deadlines, others won’t trust the deadlines you set. It could also lead to missed “deadlines” being the norm as others will assume that any deadlines set are fake – eroding the meaning of a deadline in the first place.

With the above tips, we hope you’re in a better position to create/set deadlines. In the next part of this series, we’ll be covering how you can actually go about managing and meeting your deadlines.


This article was originally published by Golden Equator People Experience Management Team