“Deadlines just aren’t real to me until I’m staring one in the face.”
― Rick Riordan, The Lightning Thief
We all know how the pressure of “deadlines” feels like. The clock is ticking, there is a pile of things still left to be done, and you are stepping on the gas harder with every passing minute. It seems like all your efforts would still fall short, and you are unlikely to meet the deadline and achieve your work goals.
The fact is, at some point or the other, many of us will struggle to meet deadlines and will try to cover up by resorting back to working till midnight to get the job done. However, such short-term coping strategies come at a price — loads of stress and exhaustion.
As the Chief Marketing Officer at ProofHub, I and my team do not see deadlines as a “bane”. Rather, we look upon realistic deadlines as a way to keep our clients happy and give us a target to achieve. The key word here is realistic.
Why Deadlines Matter?
Deadlines are crucial for teams because they give people something to aim for. Without deadlines, teams can easily lose direction and may tend to take things “casually” rather than working with a sense of urgency.
Generally, we have deadlines in place for one of the following reasons:
- To avoid delays in work
- To work collaboratively towards a common goal
- To set expectations
- To make people accountable
- To keep our business on the right track
There are so many teams that miss deadlines all too often, which can be a major area of concern. I have seen such teams and it’s not always due to their inability to perform. More often than not there are some other reasons for their struggle with deadlines. These reasons are as follows:
- Poor communication within the team,
- Absence of a task management system
- Over-commitment to work
- Getting distracted too often
- Unrealistic deadlines
- Lack of accountability
- Poor time management
Whether you’re a team manager, a team member, or a freelancer, setting and achieving deadlines is vital to your professional success; there’s no running away from them. Clients and bosses want things to get done on time, every time.
Here, I have penned down effective ways to meet deadlines and goals at work, without losing your peace of mind. At ProofHub, we have implemented these tips in our work routine and results have exceeded our expectations! Read on to know more about it.
1. Prioritize Your Tasks
When working on a project, you usually have your hands full of tasks you must do to meet deadlines. Now, it’s time to prioritize your tasks to maximize your results. Make a list of all your tasks and then identify “urgent” and “important” tasks. Give your foremost attention to tasks that need your immediate attention.
You can then mark the tasks that are important and decide when to do them, and even consider delegating them to reduce your workload. Using a top-rated project management software with an in-built task management feature can help you in prioritizing tasks according to the ones that deserve your attention.
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2. Remove Distractions to Improve Focus
A 2018 Udemy study showed that 74% of Millennials and Gen Z reported being distracted at work. Distractions break the momentum of work. It’s also true that some distractions will be there, especially when you’re working remotely. However, whether working in a regular office or home-office, you can always stop most of the distractions from killing your workflow.
Set up a dedicated workspace in a quiet corner of your home (for remote workers), stop checking social media accounts all too often, avoid gossiping with coworkers, turn off email/push notifications, using noise-canceling headphones, setting your Skype or Slack status to “busy” or “away” when working on a high-priority task are some ways to mitigate distractions and stay focused on work.
3. Keep Track of Projects and Deadlines
Even the most disciplined and responsible of workers who leave no stone unturned to meet deadlines can lose sight of projects and deadlines due to getting engulfed in other tasks or the drama of everyday life. I have experienced this problem first-hand.
To prevent this from happening, schedule your tasks, add projects, events, and milestones using a calendar and check it every day as a part of your daily routine. This will make sure you stay on top of your schedule and stay on track throughout your day.
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4. Learn From Past Mistakes
Remember the last time you missed a deadline and the reasons behind it? If you know what led to the failure last time, as a responsible professional it’s your responsibility to rectify the errors you made last time to improve your project delivery.
Avoid making the same mistakes again to save time and improve the quality of your work. Rather than cursing yourself for missed deadlines, take it as a learning experience. Work out on your weaknesses and polish your strengths to stay within your timeline and complete projects as per your clients’ expected delivery dates.
5. Don’t Overcommit
Some people just don’t know how to say no to requests out of their desire to please everyone. The result? Over-commitment, failure to deliver on promises, and eventually, disappointment. Many workaholics like to push themselves to the limit by taking on a hefty load, which can be detrimental in the long run.
Overcommitment on projects can lead to stress and exhaustion as you push yourself, both mentally and physically, to meet incredibly difficult deadlines. If you think you won’t be able to complete and deliver projects on time to your clients, saying a clear NO tactfully will be in your (and theirs) best interest.
6. Say NO to Procrastination
Sometimes people procrastinate because they can! You are not going to get a reward to deliver work timely and reprimands if you don’t. For example, you can spend two days on a task which can easily be done within a day, and your team manager or HR don’t seem bothered about it, you can procrastinate for years!
However, it’s time to keep yourself accountable for your tasks when others don’t. Start working on a project as soon as possible, even if the deadline is a week away. Give a thought to the consequences of your actions — or lack thereof. If you’re working on a complex project, break it down into smaller parts, and set a deadline to finish each part.
7. Use a Soft Deadline
You might have scheduled and planned everything, so the project can be delivered on time. It’s great to have a plan of things-to-do in place until an unexpected setback occurs out of nowhere.
You fall ill and miss out on work for a week, or a technical snag has set you back by a couple of days. These are the events you have no control over. So the best form of defense is to have a deadline cushion. For example, if it’s a week-long deadline, plan to complete it a day before the deadline. Doing this will give you a much-needed grace period to deal with unexpected events.
8. Delegate Smaller Tasks
If you have a team to work with, you rarely have to work on a project all by yourself. Maybe you have a few interns who are willing to do some real work besides making coffee. In other words, make the most of every assisting hand at your disposal.
Sometimes, delegation of tasks can also make you hire people from outside the organization, which might mean increased costs and having less profit. However, your clients would be more than happy for timely project delivery.
As a result, you are likely to get more work and more profit in the future. For now, it will help you manage your responsibilities.
To Sum It Up
Meeting “realistic” deadlines is essential to keep your business running and growing. Missing deadlines consistently can make teams feel demotivated, lose confidence, and even treat deadlines with less respect, which is something to avoid at all cost.
Respect deadlines and put an end to your struggle by enacting these useful tips. I’m sure you are going to meet and overcome this situation head-on and make yourself and others happy and content with timely results delivered.
Have you had problems with your team missing deadlines? How did you handle it? Is there anything you’d like to add to help those struggling with deadlines? Please let us know in the comments below!
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