How to Deliver Timely Results with No Stress

Who doesn't love a deadline? Evidence suggests that the answer is, "Most of us, actually!". Deadlines are the "bane" of many people's working lives and a source of relentless and worrying pressure. But they are important to almost any task and any role, and they are essential for the smooth running of your organization. In this article, we explore why deadlines matter, and we look at practical steps that you can take for meeting your own deadlines, and for supporting others to meet theirs.

Why deadline is important?

·         To ensure that we complete our work. It's easy to delay or to forget a task that has no agreed endpoint. Deadlines help to avoid this.

·         To encourage a smooth flow of work. Deadlines help us to collaborate toward achieving a shared goal, and to keep complex, multistage projects on track.

·         To set expectations. Deadlines make clear what we're expected to deliver and when. This means that we can take control of our work, free of confusion.

There can also be serious consequences for failing to meet a deadline. On a personal level, it can damage your reputation and harm your career prospects – especially if it happens more than once. It can also be extremely damaging at an organizational level. Missing a deadline will likely impact your company's reputation, and it can have serious financial implications if your delay triggers a penalty clause in a contract.

How to Manage a Deadline

1.       Evaluate What's Required: First, you need to understand exactly what the task involves. If your deadline is for a complicated task or project, see our articles, Business Requirements Analysis and Work Breakdown Structures, to identify and map out what work needs to be done. Ideally, the person who set the deadline will have considered the complexity of the work. But our article, Estimating Time Accurately, is packed full of tips and strategies for setting realistic and manageable timelines.

2.       Get the Right Resources: Next, make sure that you have what you need to get the job done promptly. Will you have the people, technical support, equipment, training, or materials ready and available in time? If not, you may have to suggest a longer schedule, or a lowering of the quality or quantity of work that you'll deliver on time.

3.       Allow for Problems: Things don't always go to plan, so it's wise to think about potential problems. For example, how would illness, equipment failure, or an unexpectedly urgent and important competing task affect your plans? Consider what contingencies you could draw up to minimize the impact. You might, for example, consider briefing a co-worker so that he or she can cover for you or another member of your team in an emergency. 

4.       Plan in Detail: The next step is to create a detailed schedule. A good approach is often to break tasks down into small components and to create deadlines for each one. As a result, you might find that you're going to need more time than the overall deadline allows. Be sure to raise this as an issue as soon as possible and avoid simply hoping for the best! The ability to see how you're progressing can be very motivating, and it can help you to immediately identify tasks that haven't been done. Our article, Gantt Charts, describes how to use this popular visual scheduling tool.

5.       Keep your stakeholders informed: informed of progress throughout your work, highlighting any issues that delay you, and show that you are putting your contingency plans into action. Then, if you do fail to deliver on time, more people will understand the situation – and some might be prepared to help you.

6.       Limit the Damage of a Missed Deadline: Despite all your hard work and forethought, you might still miss a deadline. If this happens, keep calm, and make every effort to limit the damage. In such a situation, it's best to deal with the immediate problem quickly and to agree and meet a new deadline.

If you follow the 6 suggested methods, you'll be more likely to be able to get your work done on time with a reasonable deadline without being too stressed. Plus, if you can't follow the deadline, you have a tangible reason to support it. Because in the real world, the person who sets the deadline may not be the person who does the work themselves and may not really understand the details of the process. If you have analyzed the work and see that the deadline is impossible, do not rush to accept it. And inform the results of the analysis of the work to the relevant team so that they can understand and set up a realistic deadline.