We all know it and we are all annoyed by it: I am talking about missed deadlines, unkept promises or delayed projects.
Why do these things happen? Why do people and companies not honor their deadline commitments? In most cases this is not ill will. This frequently involves poor planning, ineptitude or the misguided assumption that it will all work out somehow.
Do you keep your promises? I know it is hard sometimes to stick to deadlines, right? Here are 10 tips helping you for meeting deadlines:
1. Only commit to what you can honor!
Never agree to an impossible deadline neither to please someone nor to to win an order. Otherwise, over the long haul this will do more harm than good: You will not only lose your customer’s trust, but you will also be stuck with a project that will bring nothing but irritation and problems, right from start.
2. Put it in writing!
Always record your commitments and deadlines in writing. It will help to counteract your forgetfulness. Enter deadlines into your planner.
Also record small, apparently insignificant commitments in writing. For instance, if you have scheduled an appointment with an employee, send out an e-mail or an invitation via Outlook. This ensures that both parties clearly know when the meeting was supposed to take place.
3. Identify the purpose!
When you agree to a deadline, describe in detail what is to accomplished, completed or shipped by this deadline. The expectations on both sides need to be crystal clear, otherwise this can result in unpleasant misunderstandings down the road.
4. Learn to say no!
Reject unrealistic requirements right from the start. If you commit to a production machine with 102% efficiency you should not be surprised to find out that you cannot meet the deadline for this machine!
5. Agree on specific deadlines!
“Let’s get back together sometime in summer.”
but agree on a specific date for the meeting, e.g. August 24, 2013. It is also advisable to determine where and at what time the meeting is to take place and how long it is scheduled to last.
6. Set deadlines for milestones
When larger projects are involved, it is best to partition the project at the start. Set deadlines for milestones.his makes a large project more manageable.
This will also keep you from catching “procrastinitis”. A major project that is started and planned at the last minute has no chance of being completed on time.
7. Keep others informed
Tell your co-worker and employees about your commitments and also the deadlines for the milestones. This will help you to define goals. It serves as an additional motivating element and will help you to stick with the milestone deadlines.
8. Always plan with contingencies!
Learn to make realistic time estimates! Do not load up your entire schedule. You should keep at least 50% of your time reserved for contingencies and breaks. Keep in mind:
“If it can go wrong, it will go wrong!”
9. Do not try to be perfect!
There are things where you need to avoid making mistakes at all costs. But there is plenty of work where it is sufficient to get things done as best as possible.
Anyone who wants to ship a 100% perfect solution all the time will never meet the agreed to deadline. Avoid this!
10. Get help early!
When things get sticky you should consider: what activities do I have to take care of myself, what can I delegate or outsource? Who can help me right now: employees, suppliers, partners?
By the way: When things get tight, avoid multi-tasking. This will only waste more time. Always start with the unpleasant tasks first.
The worst case scenario: you cannot meet the deadline!
Inform all those involved as soon as it becomes apparent that you cannot meet the deadline. Once the cat it out of the bag, and you will miss the deadline, you must inform in a timely manner and present alternatives: this will not necessarily always result in a schedule delay. You can always propose to reduce the deliverable scope to those involved and meet the deadline that way.
The key is to inform early in the process and to give those involved the option to decide about the alternatives. This way you can at least prevent the situation from getting worse.
What tips do you have for meeting deadlines?
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