Career Woman

Tips to make sure you never miss another deadline


One of the most essential skills anyone can have in the workplace is the ability to meet deadlines. Nobody is perfect and everybody misses a deadline sometimes; often it can be through no fault of their own, but consistently doing so is a good way to damage working relationships, lose clients and prevent your career from going where you want it to go. Luckily, there are steps you can take to get better at this, but first you need to understand why it happens.

One study uncovered the ‘planning fallacy’, which is best described as our own optimism being our undoing. Scientifically, some of us struggle to be realistic when estimating how long work will take, and we base our deadlines on the best case scenarios rather than how long a job will take in normal or adverse circumstances. This leaves us with very little chance of actually meeting the deadlines that get set.

Another cause is that our minds can work against us even when the deadline is a reasonable one, because we can perceive that deadline as being further away than it actually is. This is even more likely to be the case when the project or task is particularly big, so instead of rushing to get started, our brains tell us that we must have plenty of time to get it done, even when it’s exactly the opposite. With our own minds working against us, it’s no surprise that so many deadlines get missed, even before you take into account how many of us are just bad at time management.

So how do you avoid getting into that situation where you are desperately trying to deliver a project with the clock working against you? Unsurprisingly, you need to start right at the beginning, when you are being told what needs to be done, as you need to ensure you completely understand what is being asked of you, otherwise you will end up suffering from delays as you try to correct things at the end. Ask the right questions and you’ll be in a better place to work out how long it will take.

Then you need to make sure you understand what you will require to get the job done on time, so write out a checklist before you start anything else. After that, it’s time to assess the priorities and the best order in which you can get the work done, ideally setting yourself mini-deadlines to break up the project and give yourself a steady flow of goals to aim for. At this stage it’s also a good idea to factor in some leeway time for yourself to allow for things to go wrong.

Time management experts tell us that we’re at our most productive in the early parts of the week, so schedule in the biggest chunks of work for this time so you can power through them when you’re at your best. A major cause of missed deadlines is anything that distracts from what you should be doing, so if you are easily thrown off course, you need to ensure that nothing does crop up to delay you, whether this is colleagues in the workplace, potential extra tasks, or simple distractions like cellphones and social media.

That isn’t to say that technology isn’t your friend in this situation of course. Apps like Todoist can help you stay on track of your to-do list. But if things do go wrong, rather than using tools like email to communicate with your client or boss, you should do it face to face as this is the best way to request something – like a deadline extension for example. It’s never an easy conversation to have, but doing it honestly and frankly will help you in the long run.

Hopefully though, these tips will ensure that you don’t need to ask for more time as you will be much better prepared to actually meet your deadlines. They come from this SavingSpot infographic, which has all the information and science behind them.

About John Cole

John writes on behalf of NeoMam Studios. A digital nomad specializing in leadership, digital media, and personal growth topics, his passions include world cinema and biscuits. A native Englishman, he is always on the move, but can most commonly be spotted in the UK, Norway, and the Balkans.

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