Deadlines are a common everyday occurrence in our busy lives. We’re either trying to meet them or chasing others to achieve theirs. And trying to work to too tight a deadline can affect the quality of your work or cause you to make errors. The following top ten tips will help you meet your deadlines and also help you manage others to meet theirs. Some tips apply to both!
1. As soon as you are given a deadline for a task, put it in your diary and then work backwards from that date to ensure that you achieve it on time. If necessary, put stage reminders in your diary too. For example, if you have to put together a report for your manager by Friday, put a reminder in your diary for the previous Monday to check that all the components are available for you to work with.
2. If you have a large task to complete by a deadline, break it into smaller parts and give each small part its own deadline. That way you won’t leave yourself with a large task to do at the last minute. This tip is particularly good for completing mundane tasks.
3. Only accept realistic deadlines and ask for an explanation of the task. If a deadline seems unrealistic you should explain what you will have to do to complete the task. You can then negotiate a new deadline.
4. Learn to say ‘no’ assertively. Offer a brief explanation, apologise if you want to help defuse the situation and suggest an alternative solution. Do not feel guilty: remember that you are refusing the request, not rejecting the person.
5. Never leave meeting a deadline until the last minute, as something else may crop up. If you’re not able to meet a deadline, inform the person as soon as possible before the deadline and negotiate a new one. Consider, too, the possible consequences if you don’t negotiate a deadline that you are unlikely to meet!
6. Give others deadlines for completing tasks. Make a note in your diary of when you’ve said that you need something back from them. Give tighter deadlines to those who are guilty of not meeting them!
7. Always give a date, and possibly a time, for the deadline — not ASAP, at your earliest convenience or in due course. These never seem to happen.
8. Give a WIIFM (what’s in it for me) to the other person for meeting deadlines. If they can see a benefit or reason for completing the task, it will encourage them to do it on time.
9. Pre-empt deadlines before it’s too late. Chase in advance to ensure that you receive what you are expecting.
10. Use your diary or ‘brought forward’ system to proactively plan what your manager needs to do. For example, if your manager is doing a presentation in two weeks’ time, remind him or her to give you the content for the PowerPoint presentation that you will have to prepare. Otherwise, you will be staying late and doing it the night before!