Deadlines. No one likes to have a deadline looming, but the only thing worse is not meeting it. For some people, deadlines sneak up seemingly out of nowhere. Others spend so much time on every detail of a project that they inadvertently let the deadline pass. Then there are times when life’s curve balls throw you off your game and knock deadlines off their tracks.
Deadlines can be both intimidating or motivating, but either way when one is set the clock is ticking. The tips below will help you take control over their timeline so that you never have to worry about missing deadlines again.
Tip #1 – Under-Promise and Over-Deliver When Creating Deadlines
Whenever you’re asked to provide a deadline for a project always err on the side of caution and establish a date that’s at least a few days beyond what you think you will need. This is a classic under-promise and over-deliver moment. Missing a deadline can be detrimental. Getting a project turned in days ahead of time will make you look like a hero, and only you will know that you gave yourself the extra padding.
If a client or supervisor is setting the deadline and it isn’t realistic, speak up. Give them sound reasoning as to why more time is needed for the deadline and then do your best to get as close as possible to their original timeframe.
Tip #2 – Break the Project Down Into More Manageable Chunks
Breaking a project down into a series of tasks is beneficial for a number of reasons. For one, the project won’t seem so large and overwhelming, which is a procrastination trigger. Secondly, breaking the task down will help you prioritize what needs to be done so that things move along at a smooth pace. Breaking tasks down will also help make them feel more immediate (see below).
Tip #3 – Set More Meaningful Self-Imposed Deadlines
Self-imposed deadlines need to be in the now. That was the finding of a study conducted by the University of Chicago. “In the now” means that we register it as an immediate need, not something that is going to occur in the future. After breaking your project into chunks, set completion times for each task. The first task should be scheduled for completion within the next business day, week or other appropriate time frame.
Setting the first self-imposed deadline in the now will help you get the ball rolling more quickly. Continue that same process for each chunk and it will keep the project in the present so you’re less likely to procrastinate. One additional tip – research has found that color-coding tasks on your calendar can help prevent procrastination as well.
Tip #4 – Don’t Get Bogged Down in Details
Perfectionists often loathe deadlines, because they don’t provide a conducive environment for their tough standards. The good news is things typically don’t have to be perfect on the first iteration. When working on a project the 80/20 Rule also comes in handy. Keep focused on the tasks that will yield the biggest results and the minor details will begin to take care of themselves.
Tip #5 – Account for the Other People, Equipment and Information that is Needed
Sometimes factors that are out of our control cause us to miss deadlines. Planning ahead can help circumvent the issue of not having the manpower, equipment and information you need when you need it.
When other co-workers and outside consultants are needed to complete a project bring them on board immediately. Take the reigns in delegating tasks, setting deadlines for the project milestones and keeping in contact to ensure progress is being made. Make requests for equipment and information well ahead of time so they don’t become a drag on the deadline.
Tip #6 – Don’t Be Afraid to Ask for Help
If you’re getting short on time and it looks like you might not meet the deadline, don’t hesitate to ask coworkers for help. Some people are concerned that this will give the impression that they can’t handle the project. In all honesty, missing a deadline is the only surefire way of doing that. Co-workers are usually more than willing to help out when you’re in a pinch. Even a significant other is likely willing to pitch in to ease the load however they can. If they can’t help out on the actual project, they may be able to take additional things off your plate so you can devote more time to hitting the deadline.
Meeting deadlines is an indicator of how seriously you take your success and the success of your company. Squash any questions about your reliability and seriousness by using the tips above to consistently hit your deadlines.