Leveraging Deadlines

How to use deadlines to your advantage

We often live in fear of deadlines or see them as the main source of our stress. You know how it goes: “Only two months left to make your annual target”, “The report has to be completed and on the boss’ desk by Friday morning”, or “The customer has to have this by the close of business today”.

Here is the thing; it is how you frame deadlines that will determine how you perceive them. Do you see deadlines as something which is there which will disturb your work-life balance or something that can you achieve a better balance? Do you want deadlines to be a source of stress or a source of energy? The choice is yours.

Here are some of the ways you can reframe deadlines to help you become more effective and efficient by adopting a perspective of:

  • Deadlines provide a means by which you can easily and quickly prioritize your work.
  • Deadlines help you and your team to focus, align your efforts and improve collaboration
  • Deadlines help you to determine when and why you “just say no”.

Deadlines can help you be more productive when used properly. In doing this:

1. Don’t give everything a deadline.  Not all work is important and urgent – only give deadlines to work that is. If you create a deadline for everything then if everything is a priority, nothing is a priority.

2. Plan around the deadlines. You need to make sure that you allocate people, time and resources in a suitable way to ensure the work gets done. This is especially true with deadlines that are further out in the future, and where we are often more prone to procrastinate and then we panic to complete the work in time.

3. Create contingency plans. We have all experienced the problem of being behind schedule. We know it can happen, so create contingency plans so that know what to do and how to recover the lost time.  Especially if your work is dependent on others doing the work on-time. If you don’t have a contingency plan you will be forced to react, this usually results in poor decisions being made and poor results realized.

4. Have mini-deadlines. If the deadline is a long way off, then create mini-deadlines for smaller pieces of the work. This helps you to monitor progress and ascertain where the plan and deadlines might be at risk.

5. Let people know what is happening.  Your work is often impacted by the work (or lack) of others and in turn your work (or lack) of impacts other. Make sure you let others know what is happening or not, and the associated upside and risks – similarly others need to reciprocate.  Doing this helps you to determine what needs to be done to keep to the deadline, what might be needed a change in the scope of work being done, or if the deadline needs to be shortened or lengthened.

Deadlines are a tool. Using them properly they can help you get more of the work done, and more of the right work done. Use these guidelines to help you leverage the power of deadlines and get more done, more easily with less stress.

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