Most people would admit to struggling with meeting deadlines, so much so that Apple’s App Store has over 3,700 productivity apps. In 2011 alone, more than 5,000 books about procrastination were released. Yet despite all of the resources available, deadlines are still being missed.
Missing a deadline can prevent career advancement and damage reputations. Every team member involved in a project is hurt when a deadline is missed. That’s why it is important every step be taken to avoid missing them.
Here are three key tips to make sure you never miss another deadline.
Sure, there are times when missing a deadline is out of one’s control. Food poisoning, theft, earthquake--there is an endless list of random, unforeseeable circumstances that can halt work and ruin the best of intentions. Life happens.
But let’s be honest, a majority of missed deadlines happen because of good ol’ procrastination. The deadline was there, but the important work got put off until it was too late. There was a time when procrastination was seen as a moral flaw, but psychologists Jane Burka and Lenora Yuen, authors of Procrastination: Why You Do It, What to Do About It Now, discovered the true cause is actually a deep internal issue that has more to do with confidence and fear than with being lazy.
If you tend to miss deadlines on a regular basis, take some time to analyze what is happening mentally and emotionally. Are you afraid your work won’t measure up? Putting off being criticized by your boss? Are you so worried about the deadline that you actually miss it? Finding out why helps you address it and move on.
Whether you have issues with procrastination or not, being handed a massive project can be extremely overwhelming, which leads even the most productive worker to procrastinate. When faced with a situation like this, try tricking yourself into thinking this huge career building, reputation staking project is actually a lot of tiny ones that can be managed easily. By breaking the assignment into a series of shorter deadlines, it will feel as if you’re checking things off a to-do list, rather than trying to put a daunting dent in a project that can’t be done in time.
Another way to trick yourself is to use the two-minute rule. If you have trouble getting started on a project because it feels boring or uninteresting, try to see what you can do in two minutes. By knowing it’ll be over with soon, it won’t be so hard to get started. And, because our brains don’t like to leave work undone, you want to keep going even after those two minutes have passed.
Block it out
For those who have multiple deadlines to meet, try blocking out time and dedicating each block to a single project. Blocking out a few hours to work on a planned project allows you to make more headway than if you try to work on several projects at once. If you block out time to work on different jobs throughout the week, you have a greater sense of control over your deadlines. Once your schedule is more under control, the stress of meeting competing deadlines melts away and more work gets done.
Meeting deadlines brings a sense of accomplishment and happiness. Rather than focus on what happens when you don’t meet your deadline, think about what happens when you do. Keep these tips in mind next time your boss hands you a seemingly overwhelming project, and you will be well on your way to feeling like the person who helped business, not destroyed it.