There are two very important factors that will contribute to your reputation at work and those are quality of work performance and how well you meet deadlines. Today, we will specifically focus on meeting deadlines, as that’s the area that many team members and freelancers have issues with. Unfortunately, doing an outstanding job with a task is not enough. You have to turn your projects and tasks in on time. Otherwise, you will lose customers, disrupt the product development process, disappoint your team and manager and even lose your job because of it.
Deadlines are also one of the causes of employee burnout. They are a source of stress and relentless pressure. However, there’s no business or organization that won’t rely on deadlines to complete a project on time and satisfy customers. Ultimately, deadlines matter. They are essential for the smooth running of any business. Therefore, you have to become a master in meeting deadlines. However, if you are experiencing difficulties in meeting deadlines or lack any time management techniques, you shouldn’t worry much. There are things you can do and practical steps to follow for meeting deadlines and even for supporting other team members to meet theirs. Let’s take a look at 10 essential tips for meeting deadlines.
Why Deadlines Matter?
Why are deadlines so important? Why are bosses always nagging about meeting those deadlines and checking with you every day? Are we there yet? Are we there yet? Well, this is why:
To ensure work is completed. You can’t keep delaying deadlines or pretending they don’t exist. Forgetting a task is also not an option. That’s why we have deadlines - to remind us of our responsibilities and ensure that they will be fulfilled.
Smooth workflow. Deadlines bring the team together. When team members collaborate toward achieving a common goal, a better working environment is created. Not just that but deadlines keep complex, multistage projects on track.
Setting expectations. Having a deadline helps us understand what we are expected to deliver and when. This way there is no confusion and we can take control of our work.
Reputation. Not being able to meet deadlines can damage the reputation of your company or organization. Serious financial losses might occur if you don’t submit what’s expected of you on time. Time is money, after all. On a personal level, it can damage your own professional reputation and harm your career prospects.
1. Care About The Deadline
If you want to meet your deadline, you have to be serious about it. Don’t regard a deadline set by your employer as a “slight suggestion.” There’s a reason why it’s there in the first place. You have to complete a task by tomorrow morning - make it a priority and do your best to fulfil your obligations. Don’t be lax about deadlines. Acknowledge their importance. With that mindset, you are on your way to becoming a master in meeting deadlines.
2. Evaluate the Requirements
A task and a deadline come together, hand in hand. Once you see a new task assigned to you, along with a deadline next to it, you have to understand what exactly the task involves. Presumably, your team lead or manager takes into consideration the complexity of the work before setting a deadline. However, in some cases you might see a complicated task or a project with an unreasonable deadline next to it. In this case, evaluate the requirements and negotiate a more adequate deadline. You are not a robot, after all.
3. Break Down the Task
This is a standard advice for any task or project. If you’re faced with a big task, involving tons of little things, try to break it down into several mini tasks. Eat that big cake piece by piece. Once you have those little pieces figured out, give a time estimate for each. Each mini task should be small enough that it takes an hour or less to complete.
This meeting deadlines tip is directly related to the above one. Once you’ve broken down your big task into smaller mini tasks, focus on the first one and move on to the second one only when the first one is finished. Don’t try to multitask. It will only damage your productivity and focus which will inevitably result in low-quality results and failure to meet that deadline.
Not just that but when you complete a mini task, you will feel confident and satisfied with yourself. You will move on to the next one in good spirits.
5. Utilize a Project Management Tool
You have to submit a project proposal in two days? Don’t write it down on a sticky note. Don’t rely on your brain to remember the exact date and time you’re supposed to submit it. Open your project management tool. Create a task for yourself, break it down into smaller tasks and assign yourself a deadline, along with a reminder. Project management tools can help you track your progress. Not just that but you can also leave comments, notes, add documents, etc.
6. Manage Problems
Things won’t go always according to plan. Therefore, it’s wise to think about potential problems that might arise during completing your task or project. For instance, you have to send a press release today and you need a banner from the designer in your team. However, he/she is not ready yet and you won’t be able to send it on time. In this case, a workplace conflict might easily occur as you will start blaming other people for not meeting your own deadline. In this case, it’s better to communicate and let everyone who you depend on know of the seriousness of your expectations.
This is just one example. If something else comes up and it affects your plans, you have to know how to minimize the impact.
7. Have a Clear Outcome
When you and the person who assigned a specific task for you agree on a clearly defined outcome, you will manage to complete the task in a timely manner. If you skip this important step, you will definitely be sorry later. If you turn in a project or a task and it runs out that it’s not exactly what the client or your boss wanted, you will have to do extra work. This means missing your deadline and losing time and money. When it’s not clear what the outcome of a task should look like, ask for specifications.
8. Don’t Overcommit
Know your strengths, weaknesses and limitations. Don’t agree to do something just because you believe you can do it. That’s especially valid if you have to deal with something you’ve never done before. Don’t commit to a strict deadline if the task is more than you can handle. Learn to say no if you can’t finish the project or task on time.
9. Negotiate a Second Deadline
If things are not looking good (which means that you probably overcommitted), you should talk to your boss, client or team leader and negotiate a second deadline. It’s much better to do this than to suffer in silence and submit a half-done task. Of course, once you have your second deadline, you have to make sure you meet it. Two missed deadlines in a row will make you look very unprofessional.
10. Do Whatever it Takes to Meet It
If you planned badly or procrastinated, you will be up against a tight deadline and that’s a big monster to defeat. Do whatever it takes to meet the deadline. If that means staying up late or not going for a lunch break, do it. You were aware of the consequences to your procrastination and you should now face them.
This is actually good for you as you will learn from your mistakes. Next time, you won’t leave everything for the last minute and you will manage your time better.
Tips for Managing Yourself
The above-mentioned tips for meeting deadlines are useful but there’s another important factor to consider if you’re struggling to submit your tasks on time. That factor is you. Here are a few ideas to consider:
Learn to say “no.” Be assertive and give yourself enough time to complete a task. Evaluate if a deadline is reasonable and if you think it won’t work for you, communicate your concerns to your boss.
Attitude change. We all resent deadlines but the truth is that deadlines help us achieve goals we might otherwise put off. Have a positive attitude towards deadlines.
Work on your self-sabotaging behaviours. If you’re spending too much time on the Internet or social media, for example, work on addressing this.
Motivate yourself. Some people are not inspired by deadlines because they don’t feel motivated to complete the task on time. Find what motivates you. A promotion? A recognition from your boss? Having free time for your hobbies? Once you know what’s driving you, you will definitely meet your deadlines.
Planning is not the same as doing. Spend some time on planning and dividing the task into smaller tasks but remember that you have to put this plan into action.
Key Points to Remember:
Deadlines are absolutely essential for the smooth running of any business or organization.
Deadlines keep work flowing and ensure that all team members are working to an agreed end date.
Managing deadlines can be difficult but there are things you can do to improve.
Ultimately, your attitude and mindset are the most crucial factors for you successfully completing a deadline. Think positively, stay motivated, use your time wisely, manage problems in advance and plan ahead of time. You can do it!