Meeting deadlines is crucial for any type of work. Failing to meet deadlines can often negatively affect you and your organization.
In an ideal work setup, you will take up a task or a project and set a deadline for its completion, work hard to carry out the task/project and meet the deadline; it sounds straightforward. However, in the real world, you don’t get to work on projects and activities one by one in a sequence. You will be involved in multiple projects or activities at any given time. You will be shuffling with the tasks, constantly facing the pressure of impending deadlines looming over your head, and scrambling to get everything done on time. It can be stressful, but it does not have to be that way.
You can manage all your deadlines with a little bit of planning, prioritizing and organizing. In this article, we will explore the concept of deadline management, a skill you need to have to succeed at work.
A deadline is a specific date and/or time that marks the duration within which you have to complete a task or activity or project.
Importance of deadlines in project management
Deadlines are extremely important for project management. Without deadlines, projects will never get completed on time. There won’t be any discipline and things will happen at their own pace, affecting productivity, efficiency and profitability.
3 reasons why deadlines are important:
- Deadlines eliminate delays and help you work efficiently
When you don’t have a deadline, there can be unlimited delays, without any compulsion to complete the task. It is possible to forget the task entirely if there is no deadline. Deadline gives you a kind of ultimatum and lets you perform to your fullest potential. It helps you race against time and do work efficiently.
- Deadlines bring synergy to your team
When you take up a task at your workplace, it is most likely a small part of a bigger project assigned to your team, which consists of many members who take up their own share of tasks in the project, just like you. For the project to complete within the stipulated time, everyone involved must complete their part within the deadline they agreed upon and contribute to the completion of the project.
Deadlines ensure that everyone’s contribution comes together at the right time to complete a bigger picture for the project and the organization. So, they play a key role in realizing the organizational objectives. Without definitive deadlines, every member would be completing their respective tasks at various times at their convenience. Even a delay from one single person on the team could have a major impact on the entire project, as the project itself has its own deadline, which you have to meet as a team. Only when the members work towards the shared goals with a deadline at the individual level they can stay on track to complete all the tasks and meet the project deadlines.
So, deadlines build a synergy amongst the team members and help individuals and teams to collaborate toward achieving a shared goal, and to keep complex, multistage projects on track.
- Deadlines help you control your work
When you have a clear idea about when you are expected to deliver your work, you can have more control over your work. You can plan your work accordingly and decide when to take on a task. It also helps to keep track of your progress and achievements and helps to determine how successful you are at work; i.e. in a performance review, how you have met your goals and targets within the deadlines determines how successful you are at work, which further paves the way for promotions, hikes and incentives.
Lack of direction, not lack of time, is the problem. We all have twenty-four hour days.
Why do people fail to meet deadlines?
While failing to meet deadlines can have consequences ranging from jeopardizing a key project to losing your job, people sometimes fail to meet deadlines. This could be because they may have:
- Underestimated the amount of time and effort required to complete the task.
- Too many commitments demand their attention simultaneously, stopping them from spending the necessary time to do the task.
- Lost interest and motivation, and maybe simply procrastinating.
- Lacked clarity about the goals and what they needed to achieve.
- Failed to get the necessary details or information from the managers or team members required to complete the task.
- Suffered from miscommunication with key stakeholders such as the team members or the managers.
- Misunderstood or misinterpreted the deadlines that were not clearly communicated to them.
- Worked in a disorganized way without a plan or the means to prioritize tasks.
How to set deadlines that can be met?
If you find it hard to meet deadlines consistently, the first thing that you can do to address it is to look into how you set your deadlines in the first place. The most common mistake that many people make while setting deadlines is that they create a rough estimate of how long it will take to complete the task, and set a deadline straightaway based on it. However, there are a few other things to consider before setting them.
- When does your team/organization require the final outcomes of your project/task?
The first thing to consider is when your final output is actually needed. For instance, you may have planned a product launch during the new year. There may be a testing period of 3 months before release, during which the product would be tested and fine-tuned based on the findings. It may take another two months for the final product to be ready for mass production. You have to factor in that time and the Christmas holidays during which your employees will not be available. So, for a product that will be launched on New Year’s eve, the product design and prototype should be ready at least in the first week of July. Using an agile task management software to plan this project by factoring in the timeline will help in concluding on practical deadlines.
- Give some breathing space
If your product should be ready in the first week of July, and if you set your deadline as the first week of July itself, you will cut it close. This can be risky, as deadlines get pushed most of the time due to unforeseen circumstances such as:
- Having to divert attention toward other important priorities often
- Obstacles in product development or challenges in completing the tasks
- Mistakes or errors that need to be corrected
- Not meeting the quality standards
- And many more
So, you must add a buffer to your deadline to manage and meet the deadline despite the challenges. You how to ensure that there is enough time to make changes and fix things that may go wrong. You have to create that buffer by considering the holidays and the days when other activities, such as meetings, training, etc., may happen.
- Discuss with your team and synchronize your deadline with the requirements of your team
A Project is the sum of outcomes created by all the team members. But for a team member to start his/her work and produce outcomes, it might at times require you to complete your task and hand it over to him/her within a specific time span. Only then he/she may be able to take your outcomes as input, carry out the task and complete it at the right time. Completing tasks and handing over the outcomes to the next person is like a chain reaction. In such circumstances, only when everyone delivers on time, the chain reaction will continue and your team will complete the project on time.
So, speaking to your team and asking them when they need you to complete your tasks is essential. Depending on their requirements, you can adjust your deadlines. If you cannot agree upon a deadline as it is too ambitious, you can inform your team so that they can plan differently and accommodate your outcomes later. Your team can also create a contingency plan, foreseeing a potential delay or setback somewhere. They can explore ways to complete the project in a different way/order.
For example, if your team is creating an app, and if every team member is working on a different module, each with different amounts of complexity, then the team can plan in such a way that the modules that are easiest to complete can be integrated into the app first. A unique deadline for every module can be set, depending on its complexity and size, so those who are in charge of integrating these modules into the app can start integrating them one by one as they get completed. Ideally, the modules would get completed in the order of increasing complexity and can be incorporated into the app in that order. If one of those modules runs into some problems and suffers a delay, they can follow a contingency plan that lets the development of other modules be expedited and integrated without waiting for the one that missed its deadline.
Team management can be effectively managed through team alignment and transparency for smooth execution. You can get started on Profit.co completely free today to learn how OKRs can help manage your teams and help you meet your deadlines too.
- Set your deadlines based on your to-do list
Your to-do list may contain a list of various tasks with different deadlines and priorities. Some may be even more important than the task you are taking up right now. Learn how to make a to do list with the right priority so that you can refer to the other deadlines and see where a particular task fits. If you cannot complete this task first, calculate how long it will take to complete your other high priority tasks before you can get to this task. You can set your deadline accordingly.
How to prioritize while multitasking to meet project deadlines
In today’s workplace, employees often juggle multiple projects at once. Multi-tasking is a part of daily routine, but it can also cause overlap and confusion when not managed properly. You need to stay on top of things to meet multiple deadlines. You can do that by spending some time on prioritizing the right tasks at the right time. Prioritize competing deadlines can go a long way in meeting project deadlines.
You can achieve that by creating a list of all the tasks and ranking them based on their importance. You need to mark as high priority when it comes to tasks that are:
- About to get complete sooner
- Expected to have a bigger impact on the business
- Crucial for success, such as a sales pitch
- You can also group together the tasks that have short deadlines, and fill the gaps caused by that change in your schedule with tasks that fit into that time slot. This way, you can be more efficient and productive.
8 steps to manage and meet your deadlines
There are a few key ways to ensure that you always meet your project deadlines.
- Get clarity over the deadline
Understand what the deadline means. Clarify with the team whether the task needs to be completed by that date, or it merely needs to be presented for perusal by that date. This will help you plan your time better.
- Make a list of tasks and a plan
Once you clarify the deadline, make a list of things that need to be done in order to meet that deadline. Visualize what needs to be accomplished and get a tentative idea about how much time each task will take. Create a plan and a schedule accordingly.
- Set realistic deadlines
It is important to set realistic deadlines to give yourself enough time to complete the tasks. As mentioned earlier, consider all the factors involved in completing a project before setting the deadline.
- Communicate your deadlines with your team
Keep your team updated about your deadlines and your progress against them so that they know if your tasks and the project are on track. Ensure your tasks and deadlines are in sync with the teams.
- Stay organized
You must stay organized and prioritize the right tasks at the right time. If you lose track of things or forget the tasks that need to be completed, you cannot meet deadlines. You can use scheduling and task management/project management tools to stay on top.
- Avoid procrastination
Never postpone anything and stick to your schedule. Once you postpone, something will have a ripple effect on everything else that follows, creating a broader impact across all your tasks.
- Focus on one thing at a time
While it is an essential skill, multi-tasking does not necessarily mean focusing on multiple tasks simultaneously, side by side. Focus on the task at hand. If something important comes up, pause what you are doing, take up the new task, complete it, and immediately get back to where you previously left your task. This way, you can multitask and, at the same time, focus on one job at a time.
- Get some help when needed
Trying to do everything by yourself can overwhelm you and stop you from meeting deadlines. It will place a lot of stress on you and make you less productive and less creative as well. So, when you have too much to do, seek some help from a team member who is relatively free.
What is deadline management software?
Deadline management is a skill that keeps you productive and efficient. You can make it better with the help of technology. The software tools that help with effective deadline management are called the deadline management software. They can help you track deadlines, set reminders, and send alerts to team members. They can also help you create and track to-do lists, and set priorities for your tasks. In short, they make deadline management easy and fast.
What are the top deadline management software in the market?
There are many deadline management software available in the market. Some of them include:
- Google Sheets
Frequently Asked Questions
- How do you manage tasks and deadlines?
You can manage tasks and deadlines by prioritizing the right tasks at the right time. You can also use deadline management software to effectively manage tasks and deadlines.
- What is the best way to manage deadlines?
You can manage deadlines properly by planning better, setting the right deadlines, sticking to the schedule, multi-tasking, and working with a team.
- What are deadlines in project management?
Deadlines are specific dates/or times that mark the duration within which you have to complete tasks or activities or projects.
Deadline management can be made easier by using an agile OKR-centric software that allows your goals to be aligned with measurable key results that can be tracked. Easily a project manager can keep track of execution with prompts, alerts and check in of the entire team. Book a free demo with our team to learn more about how OKR software can help with deadline management and optimize your organization’s performance!