Who doesn’t love a deadline? Everyone, that’s who.
As the bane of our working lives, deadlines are a source of worry and pressure. On the other hand, deadlines are also crucial for any task and essential in the running of a tight organisational ship.
In this part of our series, we’ll cover two essential aspects to successfully meeting deadlines:
- Managing the deadline
- Managing yourself
Managing the Deadline
If you’ve simply been accepting any deadline you’re given… STOP.
This is because it’s important to consider any deadline properly before agreeing to it. People often underestimate how long it takes to complete projects, so the deadline you’ve been given could be unrealistic. Or it could have been set unnecessarily early just to prevent any problems from arising if delivery is late.
So, what can you do?
1. Evaluate what’s (really) required
First – and perhaps most importantly – you’ll need to get a solid understanding of exactly what the task involves. If the task or deadline is part of a larger, more complex project, identify and map out in as much detail as possible what work needs to be done.
2. Get the right resources
After establishing what’s required, you’ll need to make sure that you have all the resources you need to get the job done properly (and promptly). Do you have the people, technology or materials you need? If not, you may have to suggest a longer timeline or reduce the quality or quantity of work that you’ll be able to deliver on time.
3. Allow for problems
Things don’t always (or never) go according to plan. That’s why you’ll need to spend some time thinking about what potential problems could arise, and how these problems could affect your timeline. Thereafter, you can consider contingencies that could minimise the impact of the potential problem/s.
4. Create/Plan a detailed schedule
In this step, oftentimes a good approach is to break tasks down into smaller components and create deadlines for each component. By doing so, you might find that you’re going to need more time than the overall deadline allows. Consequently, you’ll be able to raise this issue as soon as possible so that you can negotiate for a longer timeline.
5. Limit the damage of a missed deadline
No one can predict the future, and despite all the planning you’ve done and problems you’ve allowed for, Murphy could still make his presence felt. If this happens, don’t delay in keeping all stakeholders informed about the problem and how it might affect the timeline. Solutions or help can sometimes come from unexpected quarters and one of your stakeholders could have resources that might help overcome the problem.
Most importantly, take responsibility, avoid making excuses, and focus on delivering what you can as soon as possible.
The other element in successfully managing deadlines is to manage yourself. In this aspect, there are several things you can do on a personal level…
- Understand your motivations: Research shows that some people just aren’t motivated by deadlines. Sounds like you? Then consider what does motivate you. Is it doing a good job? Receiving recognition? Having time to do the things you enjoy? Meeting your deadlines will probably help in all of these areas.
- Practice positivity: Whenever we feel stressed, we tend to focus on the negatives in any situation. But why not try thinking about what you’ve done well so far? And while you’re at it, you could also try visualising a positive outcome from meeting your upcoming deadline. Doing this may help you improve your mood, and aid in developing a more positive attitude towards deadlines.
- Write out your options: If you’ve got a lot on your plate, try writing down the options you have for meeting a deadline. Doing so could help you process information and organise your thoughts. Also, writing down what tools you’ll need or whose assistance you’ll require can help you focus on the steps needed to meet a deadline rather than the deadline itself. However…
- Don’t mistake “planning” for “doing”: No matter how good a plan you have, that’s all it is – a plan. Once you have a plan, put it into action.
- Be assertive: If you’ve really got too much on your plate, learn to say “no” to a task if appropriate, or to at least give yourself the space to evaluate when you’ll be able to get a piece of work done before you agree to it.
- Reduce distractions: When it’s time to focus on getting work done to meet a deadline, consider different ways to remove distractions from your work environment. You could even try working in a “quieter” space in the office rather than at your desk.
- Make meeting deadlines a habit: Once you’ve figured out your method for meeting deadlines, you can apply it to other (even bigger) tasks and – consequently – make meeting deadlines a matter of habit.
- Don’t forget to get some rest: It’s been shown that sleep improves mental clarity and focus. So, if you’ve been slogging away to meet your deadlines, don’t forget to get some shuteye as well.
Now that you’re armed with the tips and tactics for meeting timelines and deadlines, we hope that you’ll find them useful when meeting or setting timelines and deadlines – both for yourself and for others.
This article was originally published by Golden Equator People Experience Management Team