Drama Free Deadlines
Whether you are responsible for a final report or the delivery of a new software application, the deadline could come with a feeling of dread. If it does, it will cause worry and stress, and throw you into a state of inaction and this can cause you to miss that deadline, altogether. A vicious cycle of increasing stress and diminishing self-confidence will further affect your performance and, ultimately, your career advancement.
It is human nature to avoid taking action if it causes negative feelings. Fortunately, there are things you can do to meet those deadlines.
Try this seven-step process to turn missed deadlines into a thing of the past:
- Get control of your emotions. If you feel panic, your old brain is in threat mode and is blocking access to your neocortex – your thinking brain. To reset, think of someone you love or get up and stretch. That will give your new brain time to catch up so you can think again.
- Get clear on exactly what is expected and why. If a deadline seems unreasonable, find out why it needs to be completed and delivered on that deadline date. Whether it is unreasonable or not, understanding its importance will get you moving and keep you focused.Busy managers often throw projects over the wall. When you receive the request, scope it out. Find out exactly what it entails and if the delivery can be broken into chunks. Then identify which of the “chunks” are the most important and if they can be delivered separately.
- Get as much information as you can about how to meet the deadline.
- Do you need more information? Set up meetings and interview people to get really clear about what they expect as a result of your delivery.
- Does the deliverable require input from people with different functional expertise?
- Do you need to assemble a team or can you do the work yourself?
- Get Planning. For a small project, this could mean writing a list of tasks on your whiteboard. For a large project, you need a project plan that includes all the information you gathered. Define the tasks, who will complete them, and set milestones so you know you on track.
- Get the time you need. No matter how involved the project is or long it will take to complete, you need time. Review your calendar and set aside blocks of time to get it done. You may have to shift other obligations to keep from becoming overwhelmed or overcrowding your schedule. You might need to turn down offers from well-intentioned friends in order to keep to your deadline schedule.
Divide larger projects into steps and include adequate time in your schedule for each step.
If you try to multi-task, you will end up feeling burned out and disorganized. Blocking out time will allow you to focus on nothing else as you work towards your deadline.
- Get moving and execute the plan. Start completing tasks as soon as you have clarity about what needs to be done. If there are other people working on the project, communicate their requirements and tasks. Make sure everyone’s goals are clear and achievable within the window of time you have. Measure the results based on the milestones you defined in step three.As tasks are completed, check them off your list. It is a good idea to have a way to visually track tasks waiting, tasks in process and task complete.
- Get it finished. Deliver your result or reset expectations. If you can’t get the entire requirement completed on the deadline meet with the requester, explain what has been completed and what still needs to be done. Then, ask if the work completed satisfies the request or if the deadline can be extended. If the latter, give an estimate of how much time is needed to meet the new deadline.
Practice this process to make meeting your deadlines easy and you’ll never have to worry about missing them again. It can be used to meet the deadline for any project, large or small, at home or at work.
When you consistently meet deadlines at work, you will develop a reputation for reliability and escalate your career success.