When you know the reasons behind missing deadlines, you can’t help but question the importance of having deadlines at all. The truth is deadlines are important because they give you a goal to work towards.
“A deadline is negative inspiration. Still, it’s better than no inspiration at all.” — Rita Mae Brown.
Accordingly, you have to get into the mindset of constructing a plan, setting priorities, and getting into the nitty-gritty of a task.
That’s why we’ve created this guide which will help you meet your upcoming deadlines.
How to meet your deadlines
Pinpoint the reason
Logically, solving the problem requires first identifying the cause(s). Decide which apply to your case. Also, don’t stop till you identify the finest details. For example, if you are working under bad management, which of its aspects exactly is affecting your productivity and causing the problem? Only then can you choose the most suitable solution.
Build awareness of how deadlines affect you
Researchers found that working with deadlines causes stress, decreases creativity, and can also kill brain cells. In addition, meeting these deadlines results in great feelings from our reward systems that, in the long run, can actually cause an addiction-like effect.
But everyone handles this pressure differently. That’s why you have to understand how the stress of a deadline changes your behavior. Do you completely panic and become unable to perform? Do you forego quality and only focus on finishing the task? Or do you actually work better under a reasonable amount of pressure? Being aware of your behavioral change under stress will help you choose the most fitting solution.
Make a firm but flexible plan
Planning well is the cornerstone of all success. So here are step-by-step instructions to set a great plan:
1- Collect info
Collect everything you have to do in one place so that you have a bird’s-eye view of all the tasks on your plate. Use Trello or any other productivity app for best results. Communicate your capacity to your manager so that you don’t get assigned other tasks you can’t handle at that time.
2- Prioritize, prioritize, prioritize
Don’t just start working on the first task you have on the list, but first organize and prioritize them according to urgency. So you can create 3 lists of tasks: this day, this week, and this month. You can also prioritize according to importance. Figure out what works best for you and your work. Approaching your tasks using the 80-20 rule to isolate your most important ones is also a great idea.
Now that you’ve decided the task you’re going to work on, you have to know everything about it. Don’t be shy of asking about each and every detail. The better you understand what you have to do, the easier it will be to do it.
Break the task at hand into smaller, actionable tasks. This will help you better visualize the task because bigger, farther matters seem abstract and unattainable.
5- Set deadlines
Now you can comfortably assign suitable deadlines for the smaller tasks but take into consideration possible interruptions and urgent matters that might come up. So give yourself some room. You can also trick your brain by setting a deadline that’s a couple of days or so earlier than the actual deadline. But if you tend to become overconfident or start procrastinating because you know it’s not the actual deadline, then this last tip is not for you.
6- Save the date
Communicate the set deadlines to your team and manager. You’re less likely to not meet a deadline if other people know about it and are waiting for your output. This way also enables you to manage everyone’s expectations, yours included.
Now comes execution and starting is always the hardest part. Start with as little as five minutes and you’ll find that you’ve switched into the work mode. Take it from there, but don’t overdo it. You don’t want to burn out too soon.The most important part of planning is starting. #WillMeetMyDeadlinesClick To Tweet
Bonus tip 1: Keep these two important laws at the back of your mind when setting deadlines:
- Parkinson’s law: Work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion.
- Hofstadter’s law: It always takes longer than you expect, even when you take into account Hofstadter’s Law
Bonus tip 2: If you’re a manager or a team leader, let your team members set their own plans. Having control over the plan will increase their ownership and accordingly they’ll be more likely to meet the deadlines they set for themselves.
Figure out your most productive time
You might be a night owl or an early riser. You might have days of both. The point: Find your most productive time and don’t force yourself to work. Find your work rhythm. It might be 25 minutes of uninterrupted work at a time or it might be something else. Remember also to take breaks to start fresh every once and while.
Aim for single deadlines
You might think this goes against Step 5 (up here) in setting a plan, but it doesn’t. What we mean with single deadlines is that every smaller task should have a sacred deadline. If you procrastinate thinking you can set a second deadline, there will probably be third and fourth ones. Unless absolutely necessary, commit to a single deadline.
Value your time
Your time is your most valuable, and non-renewable, resource. Appreciate it. Understand how to value it and make the best of it. Figure out what wastes your time and avoid it. Know your priorities and the rest will come naturally.
Ask for help
You can have the most airtight plan and still miss your deadline due to any unforeseen circumstances. In such case, don’t hesitate to ask for help from your teammates or to delegate the task if you’re a leader.
Always keep the end goal in sight—literally
You can sometimes forget why you’re working on a specific task in the first place, especially in longer projects. You can lose your motivation and therefore slack off. To avoid this, keep reminding yourself of the objective or the goal you’re aiming at. You can add a note to your desktop or, if you’re old school, attach a Post-it to your laptop. You can also print a pic and put up on the office wall so that everyone can see it. Do what you need to keep your motivation alive and pushing you to work harder.
Embrace the motto “Done is better than perfect”
Let go of perfectionism and strike the right balance between quality and quantity. Aim to finish the task at hand on time with good quality. Then, if you still have time, go back to it and put those final touches that will take it from good to great, but never at the expense of another important task.Done is better than perfect. #WillMeetMyDeadlinesClick To Tweet
Be kind to yourself
The most important thing to remember is to treat yourself well. Don’t overwhelm it with tasks. Don’t berate it for missing past deadlines. Learn from your mistakes because deadlines aren’t going anywhere and you will have to deal with a new one sooner or later.
Which of the above solutions are you planning to use? Tell us in the comments below.
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