Here are a few suggestions from my recent eBook, Making Deadlines Work for You published by Bookboon. At our website, you can see descriptions of this book and about thirty others that I have written.
- Set the “Due date” for yourself a few days ahead of your promised deadline date to allow for unforeseen contingencies, and hopefully enable you to get the task done earlier than expected.
- Never underestimate how long a task will take. It is better to finish early than to miss the deadline. Any time freed up can be used to get a head start on another task or project.
- If you have the opportunity, have a staff member do the leg work on a task, such as googling information, calling others, and so on, so you can use your time on the actual job itself. Do what you do best and delegate or outsource the rest.
- Mark in your planner all those repetitive tasks or activities that occur at the same time each week or month so you can schedule your projects around them. Be sure to include vacations, conferences, and meetings.
- Break larger tasks into manageable sized chunks, each with its own deadline so you can monitor your progress and avoid procrastination.
- Record brief assignments that would take less than an hour, and have no deadline, on your” To do” list and get them done whenever time is available.
- If you have assignments that take less than fifteen minutes, do them now and get them over with.
- The time to negotiate a revised deadline is immediately after receiving the assignment, not when you find you are going to miss the deadline.
- Do not accept unrealistic deadlines without challenging them. If an assignment allows no time for interruptions and other distractions, it is unrealistic.
- Make sure all the important assignments and tasks are scheduled in your planner. Almost everything from your boss can be considered important When you run out of time to schedule anything else, seek the help of your boss in reassigning or delaying some of the projects.
- When estimating how much time to allow for your own project and tasks, take into consideration the complexity of the tasks, your current workload, and the amount of time you normally lose do to unavoidable interruption.
- Despite your allowance for contingencies, if you find you will probably not make the deadline, let your boss and other affected people know this. Do not surprise them with missed deadlines.
- Do not sacrifice sleep or time for renewal to work longer on a project or task. Research shows that if you do not get enough sleep, you risk losing cognitive speed. Sleep is your ally, and will improve your thinking ability, creativity, and stamina.
- Eliminate as many of the distractions and interruptions as possible during your scheduled work periods, by engaging voicemail, closing your office door, putting your smart phone on airplane mode, ignoring email and text messages, and so on.
- Try working a maximum of ninety minutes on the task or project before taking a break. The world should be able to survive for ninety minutes before reaching you.
- Communicate deadlines clearly. Tell everyone involved in person, and follow-up with an email.
- Write everything down. Do not rely on your memory. Take your planning calendar with you to all meetings, including performance reviews.
- For meetings, set deadlines for the individual agenda items as well as for the meeting itself.
- Never sacrifice sleep to meet a deadline.
- Do not spend more time on a project than necessary simply because you enjoy doing it or want to do more than you are asked. Let the amount of time allocated be proportionate to the value of the project and stick to your deadline. Have the courage to say, “I’m done.”
Deadlines are your ally, not your enemy, and only unrealistic deadlines create stress. It is your responsibility to make sure all deadlines are realistic, not just the ones that you set. Do not assume overtime is an option when you set or accept deadlines. Overtime is never as productive as regular working hours. In fact, if you are inefficient during the day, you will simply extend that inefficiency to cover longer periods of time. Plus fatigue makes it even more inefficient. Always aim to work smarter, not harder.
For descriptions of the 30 plus eBooks that I have written to date for Bookboon, please visit our website.