How to Deal with Deadlines and Succeed
Not everyone is great with deadlines. For some, meeting deadlines can be one of the most challenging and stressful aspects of work. And when due dates are missed, the consequences can often be serious – for individuals, teams, companies, and clients.
The good news is, deadlines don't have to be intimidating. Approached the right way, deadlines can actually be a helpful tool for organizing and prioritizing projects, and they can force you to take a disciplined approach that ultimately makes work easier.
Here are some strategies to tackle the deadlines you face and come out on top.
- Give Feedback. When someone assigns you a deadline, you first need to consider whether it's realistic given the work required, the information you need, you and your team's bandwidth, and so forth. Don't set yourself up for failure by accepting a deadline that you can't possibly meet. Instead, influence the process and outcome by communicating with the person setting the deadline about what a more reasonable timeline would look like, and why. Be honest and respectful, and you will avoid potential catastrophe down the line by working together from the start.
- Break Down the Assignment. Complex problems are always easier to tackle if you can break them into smaller parts. Take a step back and look at what the project requires, then identify the individual components you'll need to gather or complete along the way. Not only will the entire project be less intimidating when you see it as a series of smaller, simpler tasks, you'll also be rewarded and motivated by the "small wins" you can check off your list as you progress toward the ultimate objective.
- Assign Intermediate Deadlines. Keep making progress by holding yourself to shorter-term deadlines for each of the components that you've identified. No deadline or job is too minor to put on your calendar. In fact, placing individual tasks on a timeline ensures you'll achieve your final goal by the day that it's due. This approach will keep you from leaving the entire project to the last minute, while letting you see and celebrate your own progress as it's made.
- Ask for Help. If you find yourself slipping behind on a project, reach out to your supervisor or other colleagues for assistance. Importantly, keep everyone in the loop if it looks like a deadline is in danger of being missed. You won't do yourself, your team, or your client any favors if you miss a key deadline or blow a whole project by being too stubborn or proud to ask for a helping hand.
- If You Miss a Deadline. First, own up to it and show you are apologetic. Then, move on to your plan to make it right. People will be more interested to hear how you plan to get the work done rather than listen to excuses about why you missed the deadline in the first place. Keep the lines of communication open, and keep working.
Deadlines can seem burdensome and even scary at times. As long as you start with realistic expectations and everyone is on the same page, you can use due dates as motivation to break down and move through large projects on an efficient schedule. You may even find those same stress-inducing deadlines actually work for you, not against you.
Written by Ashford University staff