Image by Moonrhino
Whether you are an entrepreneur or a working professional, everyone has deadlines that need to be met. These are promises we have made with ourselves or our clients/colleagues/investors, about certain tasks or projects that we may be working on. Failure to reach these deadlines has disastrous repercussions and can result in terminated contracts, getting fired, broken friendships and many other such scenarios. However, time and time again, deadlines are missed and lessons unfortunately not learned. I have been guilty of missing such deadlines on several occasions, it has invariably placed me in a very awkward situations. Listed below are some guidelines I have set for myself as far as deadlines are concerned:
1. Understanding the Requirement: Without thorough knowledge about what a project or task entails, we will not be able to set realistic deadlines. Before setting any deadlines, it is essential that the project/task is broken down into manageable chunks and evaluated. How many resources will be required? What sort of buffer is going to be needed? What information needs to be exchanged before beginning? What is the required deliverable? What are measurement metrics? Gather as comprehensive an understanding as possible before you make a commitment. This is a step that is often skipped, even though it seems the be the most natural first step to take.
2. Be Clear: When setting deadlines we have to be as specific as possible. What is expectedto be delivered, and at what date? Who is going to be responsible for delivering the final project/task? What is the expected time frame for delivery. Without a clear understanding of what is required to be delivered at deadline time opens up a lot of room for ambiguity. For instance if you agree to deliver a project proposal by Noon 18th of May to a potential client, be very specific about what the proposal will contain and what it will not. Many a time when things have been left open, clients have taken advantage of the opportunity to ask for more than what is required.
3. Open Communication Channels: The last thing you want to be doing is working on a project/task and ending up completing it in a manner that is not acceptable to your client. I am an advocate of using all communication mediums available to us such as email, IM, basecamp etc, to keep communication lines open throughout the entire developmental process, to ensure that the client is aware of the developments. This not only makes us more accountable along the way, it provides a level of comfort to both parties knowing that the project is moving as planned.
4. Do Not Over Commit: Entrepreneurs are notorious for biting off more than they can chew. If you are a new startup without an established level of credibility this is a bad idea. Commit to a few projects and do them exceptionally well. If you have over committed, the last thing your client wants is excuses. Apologize and reschedule the deadline. If you make a habit of this, you will most likely find yourself out of work. Stay within your limits and focus on excellence rather than quantity.
5. Reward Yourself/Team Members: When you or your team reaches set deadlines they need to be rewarded. This is a critical step as it builds confidence and motivation to reach future deadlines. It is always a strong motivational force to know when you are currently carrying out the task/project, that you will be rewarded when it is completed. I have fbeen following this advice for some time now and think that without an appropriate rewarding strategy deadlines have a significantly lower probability of being met.
If you are not currently meeting your deadlines I would recommend assessing yourself on the pointers in this post. Sometimes when we get caught up in the moment we overlook the simple things. I would like to hear from readers about strategies they have in place to ensure they reach their deadlines. Look forward to hearing from you all.