Deadlines are a part of life for everyone. In school, you had long-term projects and homework assignments. Presentations, filing documents, gathering information for the boss, or completing work for a client may be responsibilities of office workers.
What happens if you miss a deadline? Well, you might lose your job if you miss a deadline — from an angry client to a grumpy manager.
What are deadlines, and why are they important?
Deadlines are dates and times on which projects, or parts of them, are due. At the start of a project, your manager or client will set a deadline for completing and submitting your work. When you meet a deadline, you finish and submit your work by or before the due date.
Even though deadlines are often viewed as stressful, they’re actually very useful for keeping us on track at work.
As the only person responsible for the outcome, deadlines keep you accountable for your goals. Due to their accountability feature, deadlines help you focus and reduce procrastination. This allows you to assess your workload and say no to other demands.
Moreover, setting a deadline and sticking to it allows tasks to be tracked and completed one by one, giving each task the attention it requires. As a result, this prevents a backlog of work. You can also identify potential issues and solve them before they become a problem for your project by setting deadlines.
Deadlines also help us achieve team goals and ensure that everyone is on the same page.
With that in mind, here are 15 tips on how to meet deadlines each and every time.
1. Be careful not to set yourself up for failure.
Not all deadlines can be negotiated. However, you usually have the most flexibility before a deadline is set. So, unless you are 100% certain you can accomplish a two-week task within one week, don’t attempt it.
What if you already have too much on your plate? Don’t be afraid to say no. Rather than hearing, “I’m too busy to meet the deadline I accepted last week,” most clients and leaders prefer to hear, “I can’t do it this week.” What’s more, your best work is unlikely to be achieved if you scramble to meet the deadline.
If you have a tight deadline, you might be able to negotiate additional help. For example, “I can get the coding done on the homepage, but I’ll need Bruce to write the copy.”
The most important thing is to be aware of your capabilities as well as your limitations. Also, keep your expectations reasonable. In the end, it’s far better to set expectations upfront than to fail to meet them in the future.
2. Organize your work into bite-sized milestones.
Are you prone to procrastination when it comes to complex and time-consuming tasks? If so, you’re not alone. There are times when your mind feels overburdened, and you feel unmotivated to work until the very last minute.
Therefore, you should divide your ambitious goals into smaller milestones. Suppose your goal is to write a 5,000-word guide for your website. You can divide it into smaller 1,000 sections and work on each section one at a time.
Afterward, you will no longer feel overburdened by your subconscious. You will feel motivated to get started with the project when you are given small deadlines. If you keep achieving all the small milestones one after another, you won’t have any trouble reaching your big goal.
3. For each step, set a start date and a completion date.
As you break down your larger project, create a list of smaller tasks with start and completion dates. It helps you get a sense of how you’re doing on the timeline, and it will let you know if you’re on schedule or running behind.
You will find that checking things off your project deadline list feels very motivating when you are specific about your start and completion dates. Moreover, it will help you identify tasks that you haven’t yet completed, as well as what you already have.
4. Budget your time.
Creating a plan will help you complete your project by your deadline. By knowing what’s left to do, when you need to do it and how long it will take, you will keep yourself on track. Make sure you stick to your schedule to maintain consistency. And as the project progresses, make adjustments to the plan to ensure accuracy.
Consider these factors when creating your time budget.
- Tasks that need to be completed.
- An estimate of how long each task will take.
- Each task’s timeline.
5. Give yourself an earlier deadline.
You can ensure you will meet your deadline if you finish early. So, set a new goal for your new deadline shortly before it. Allowing yourself extra time helps you finish early and allows you to check your work for accuracy before submitting it.
6. When planning, avoid loopholes.
In order to set a deadline for personal tasks, you must first plan them carefully. It is important to know your objectives, the working process, and the amount of time you have available before setting a deadline. If you fail to plan, you may miss the deadline.
It’s no good blaming yourself when your planning process is flawed if you miss a deadline. As an example, you may need a video edited for your meeting on Monday. Although you planned for this, your editor will be out of town this weekend.
The scheme, as you can see, has a loophole. As a consequence, you will be unable to meet the deadline. Be sure your work plan doesn’t contain any flaws in order to avoid such circumstances.
Give each activity a specific time slot using techniques like timeboxing. Most importantly, schedule it on your calendar so you know how much time you need to devote to it. As an added bonus, this prevents calendar conflicts and helps you avoid distractions. For example, you can turn off phone notifications during time blocks when you’re focused on deep work.
To remind yourself to focus on a task for a specific period of time, you can also use the Pomodoro technique.
8. Focus on action (vs. motion).
Next, focus on taking action and being proactive in order to meet your deadlines without overstressing. James Clear, the author of Atomic Habits, explains that action is different from motion:
“When you’re in motion, you’re planning and strategizing and learning. Those are all good things, but they don’t produce a result. Action, on the other hand, is the type of behavior that will deliver an outcome… Sometimes motion is useful, but it will never produce an outcome by itself. It doesn’t matter how many times you go talk to the personal trainer, that motion will never get you in shape. Only the action of working out will get the result you’re looking to achieve.”
According to James Clear, setting a schedule for your actions can help you take action rather than find yourself in motion. In other words, making the decision to move from motion to action starts with picking a date
9. Use an efficient Calendar tool.
You may lose track of deadlines and pending tasks if you have too many things on your plate. By using a Calendar tool, you will be able to stay on top of your tasks and deadlines. You can schedule meetings, events, and tasks with such calendar apps.
Calendar software makes keeping track of deadlines and milestones easy. By using these apps, you will be able to see upcoming deadlines in an organized manner. And you can also receive calendar reminders.
As an example, Google Calendar is a calendar scheduling app that you can use for both personal and professional tasks. Furthermore, deadline visualization is made easy with the integration of different project management tools.
10. Don’t spread yourself too thin.
Make sure you don’t overwhelm yourself by trying to do too much all at once. Overcommitting can lead to you not meeting deadlines that you’ve previously agreed to. In the end, this is merely a means to an end since it may reflect poorly on your work ethic or ability to finish the project.
Moreover, when we’re overwhelmed, we’re not efficient because we’re trying to accomplish a million things at once.
You should set your own boundaries. And. if you’re already swamped, don’t be afraid to decline work.
11. Work in a bubble.
It is crucial to reduce distractions in order to increase productivity and meet deadlines. You can achieve this by keeping your workspace organized and clean. In addition, you should work in a quiet environment — a pair of noise-canceling headphones could be helpful. Also, turn off unnecessary notifications, such as those from social media or e-mail.
To put it simply, you need to be in your own bubble. It’s easier for you to get and stay in the zone when you are in it.
12. Find a partner who motivates you.
A complex task can be challenging to accomplish alone — especially when you are working alone. The freedom that comes with working alone can also lead to a lack of motivation to get the job done. If you don’t have anyone to answer to regarding your personal deadlines, it can become easy to miss milestones.
It’s always a good idea to involve someone else when you’re having trouble managing your self-imposed deadlines. A family member, friend, or colleague can serve as your accountability partner.
13. Keep key stakeholders in the loop.
An organization’s success depends on its ability to communicate effectively. It is possible for multiple projects to get muddled or delayed where there is poor communication. Overall, establishing good communication with coworkers is essential.
A project’s deadlines will become clear to everyone when everyone is on board the communication train. It is also important to simplify a project’s communication plan for it to succeed.
Depending on the situation, it may take the form of regular meetings to discuss progress and challenges, work channels such as Slack, or email chains to share notes. In order to keep everyone informed on the progress of tasks, communication must be transparent.
Don’t try to be perfect; action is the enemy of perfection. Our friend James Clear says, “If I have to write an article every Tuesday, it doesn’t matter how good or how bad I feel about the article; I try to do my best but stick to the schedule anyway. Sometimes it is just that you are too hard on yourself.”
You need to stop procrastinating and get back to work.
15. Be ready for changes.
There is a possibility that deadlines and priorities may change. You can be thrown off course by these changes at any time. It definitely heightens pressure to perform to meet tight deadlines. Deadlines and priorities can be changed because of many factors. It can be a client request to expand the scope of work, a cancellation of the project, or a personal emergency.
It is important to be adaptable and flexible when changing gears and to aim for a smooth transition. In my opinion, this can be accomplished by adding buffer time.
If you need some extra time to complete a task, add some buffer time to your initial time estimate so you can give yourself some leeway. Dana Rousmaniere, Managing Editor of the Harvard Business Review’s Insight Centers, states:
“Just be sure that you assign deadlines to the work that matters most, allow a little buffer time to plan for any contingencies, and keep stakeholders informed if you hit an issue that could prevent you from meeting a milestone. With the right strategies in place, you can get a productivity boost out of deadlines without taking on the stress.”
When completing a project, it is helpful to add a buffer time to account for unforeseen circumstances. Remember, don’t be afraid to speak up if you have hiccups.
Image Credit: Black Ice; Pexels; Thank you!