There are few feelings worse than the dawning realisation that you’re going to miss an impending deadline. One look at the seemingly endless amount of work still remaining is often all you need to concede that, no matter what you do, you’ll soon be delivering bad news.
The result can be unhappy customers, soured relations with co-workers and, at worst, lost contracts.
Firstly, a reality check: at some point, we’re all going to miss a deadline. Factors beyond our control and unexpected emergencies will ultimately prove the undoing of even the most carefully planned projects and there’s nothing you can do to stop those instances.
Such instances should be few and far between, though, and we’ve got 7 tactics anyone can use to greatly reduce the times one ends up apologising, rather than delivering.
1. Rise early
Getting up early isn’t easy for all of us, but the earlier you rise, the more productive you’ll be.
This isn’t just about adding to the hours in a day, either. Far from it, in fact – rising early means your brain can get to work quicker and, having spent several hours sleeping, it’ll be in a uniquely creative state.
Like the breaking of any habit, this won’t be easy, but bears experimentation; get up early and get to work as soon as you’ve rubbed your eyes and drank those first sips of coffee.
2. Keep a tidy, uncluttered mind
We’ve all got a lot going on in our minds and a key harbinger of stress is a cluttered brain. Stress makes us unproductive and, ultimately, means we fail to deliver on promises.
There’s a brilliant way to unload one’s mind and become more productive in the process, and it utilises something called ‘mind maps’. Mind mapping is akin to brainstorming but forces people to do so in a far more visual, engaging fashion.
You can mindmap large projects, complex designs or simply the day ahead, but once your thoughts are on paper, the bigger picture becomes far clearer and, subsequently, more achievable.
Mind mapping starts by placing the central idea, theme or meeting subject in the middle of a blank piece of paper. From there, you extend to what are known as ‘nodes’ that further flesh out the central topic and enable you to continue brainstorming around the constituent elements of your big idea.
You can use colour coding and invite others to contribute to any mind map and its non-linear form encourages exploration. Pictures – certainly in this case – paint a thousand words, and below, you’ll find an example of a mind map in action:
3. Increase your skill set
Becoming a multi-skilled individual is a great way to ensure that projects are delivered on time. The more you can do that relates to your area of expertise, the more of a handle you’ll have on the work you undertake.
Marketers have long adhered to this principal by building up their knowledge in a range of practices and applying only the most suitable of techniques to each constituent project element.
Far from spreading yourself too thinly, becoming multi-skilled means, you’ll have a far better grasp on how long things take, thus enabling you to offer more accurate timescales.
4. Say “no” to the big stuff
Big jobs are tempting because they typically involve big paychecks, but, more often than not, they simply turn into a distraction.
Large projects are nearly always the ones that fail most commonly on delivery, too, due to the size and scope of the work involved.
Unless you are 99% sure you can deliver, say “no” to the big stuff. It’ll be hard, yes, but the small projects are out there and you’ll be able to deliver more of them on time (and, consequently, become more profitable).
5. Work from home
Anyone who has switched to home working will know how archaic it makes the traditional workplace look. Free from water cooler distractions and lengthy, pointless meetings, the home-based office (or kitchen table – whatever takes your fancy) is fast becoming the preferred location for workers.
If your situation allows it, try working at home for a week – you’ll start to see why experts believe half of the workforce will be working remotely by 2020.
6. Drop the ‘it needs to be perfect’ act
You’ll never achieve perfection. None of us will. But, if you’re a business owner or freelancer, there’s a good chance you’re striving for just that on a daily basis.
This is a tricky one to overcome, but realising that no one is capable of producing a perfect piece of work is essential if one is to meet deadlines.
‘Good’ is sometimes good enough, and when you’re happy you’ve done enough – stop.
7. Never stop learning
Don’t assume you know it all – just because you’ve been doing the same job for ten years doesn’t make you an expert. Just like perfection, the pursuit of expertise is usually a fruitless one.
Nothing stands still; best practices, techniques, and expectations change. And, in order to keep up-to-speed in your field and capable of meeting increasingly tight deadlines, you’ll need to learn – continuously. Thankfully, in the modern world, that doesn’t mean endless expensive, day-long training sessions, for you have the perfect learning tool nestled in your pocket or bag.
Smartphones and the ever-present internet have transformed the way we learn. Now, if we need an instant answer to a pressing question or a video explainer of a new technique that will benefit the working day, the relevant material is just a few finger taps away.
Keep reading your favourite blogs, build a YouTube video playlist full of insightful content and listen intently on social media. The more you know, the more you’ll be able to exceed expectations and crack deadlines.
It should be reiterated that the above tips are not designed to prevent you from missing a deadline ever again, but they will greatly reduce the number of times you ask for an extension or admit defeat entirely.