Deadlines are an important part of everyday life. They keep us focused on when tasks need to be completed, when we need to make payments or meet with people for various reasons. If we don’t meet these deadlines then problems arise not only for us, but others involved with those deadlines. It could be a piece of work as part of a project or a payment for a service and any delay in meeting the deadline results in a delay in the next step of the process or service. This counts towards being unreliable, which isn’t desirable as an employee or as a business. With every person and business seeking the slightest advantage over any rivals, reliability is one way to ensure repeat business comes your way.
Any assigned work will need to be managed as effectively as possible and deadlines are a good way to do that as you will be able to track what is happening, where and when and that will allow you to know what is needed before further action or steps in a project are needed.
When employees consistently meet deadlines, they’re seen as reliable, responsible and trustworthy. These are marketable skills employees carry with them throughout their working lives. Whether employees are naturally good at meeting deadlines or their workplace encourages it, a strong track record of meeting deadlines is something employees can include as their strength even.
Essential Tips for Meeting a Deadline
We need to focus on meeting deadlines, as that’s the area that most of our Finance Team have problems with. Sure, you can do great work, but if you don’t turn your projects in on time, you won’t get great results and appraisal.
Care about deadlines. This is the first step, as many people are very lax about deadlines. You have to be very serious about meeting them, and make them a priority. And make breaking a deadline a cardinal sin in your notebook. Once you’ve done this step, the rest is just logistics.
Keep a list of projects & deadlines. If you care about deadlines, you’ll write them down, and have one place that you check often to make sure you know what’s due and when. I use a simple online list, but you could use paper. Which tool you use doesn’t matter, as long as you use it.
Communicate a clear deadline. Be sure that you and your senior are in agreement with a specific deadline, including time of day. If the deadline is fuzzy, you will have trouble meeting it. If you have any issue with meeting the deadline, then share it right away at time of assignment or else it will be assumed that you’ve accepted that time/date and will deliver it accordingly.
Work in a cushion. It’s wise to build in a cushion for your deadline. To get a clear idea of how long a project will take, break it down into smaller pieces. If you aren’t sure exactly how long each of those pieces takes, break them down into even smaller pieces. And for each piece, add a small cushion to your time estimate. Then add up the time estimates of all the pieces, and you’ll have a cushion built in. This will allow for delays, and if you finish early, your senior will be pleased.
Have a clear outcome. You and your senior should both agree on a clearly defined outcome. Don’t skip this step, or you could be sorry later. If you turn in a project that’s not what your senior wanted, you’ll have to do extra work, meaning that you’ll miss the deadline. If you’re not absolutely clear what the outcome should look like, ask some questions until you are clear.
Break down the project. This is standard advice for any project, of course, but that’s because it works. Don’t try to tackle an entire project. Tackle one step at a time. Again, you’ll want to break it down into smaller steps, give a time estimate for each step. Each step should be small enough that it takes an hour or less, so it’s not too intimidating.
Focus on the first step. Now that you’ve broken the project down into smaller steps, just focus on the first one. Don’t worry about the rest for now. Give the first step your full attention, and get going. You’ll feel satisfied when you complete it, and can check it off your list. Then focus on the next step.
Block off adequate time. When you’re going to work on a step, be sure to have it blocked off on your day’s schedule. If you’re not blocking off time for your most important tasks, you’re probably not getting the important stuff done. However else you work during the rest of the day, for projects, block off a good amount of time for each step, and treat it like a doctor’s appointment — you can’t miss it.
Have a start and complete date for each step. When breaking down a project, give a start and complete date for each step, so you can get a good feel for the timeline of the project, and whether you’re on schedule or behind. It also keeps you on track if you know when each step should be started and completed.
Communicate with each step. Once you’ve completed a step, send the completed step to your client if possible. Sure, it won’t look like a completed project, but you can show that you’re making progress, you keep yourself on track, and you can get feedback communicated from the client. Better to know early on that you’re headed in the wrong direction than at the end of the project.
Don’t overcommit. One of the biggest causes of missed deadline is that an employee commits to more than he can handle.
Learn from mistakes. If you bust a deadline, take a few minutes to analyze what went wrong and how you can avoid that in the future.
Stay up late. If you planned badly, or just procrastinated, and you’re up against a tight deadline, do whatever it takes to meet it. That means staying up late and working long hours if possible.
Negotiate and meet a second deadline. If you absolutely cannot make deadline (you probably overcommitted), you should contact your senior right at time of assignment and negotiate a second deadline with valid reason explanation. It’s much better to do this than to let the deadline go by without any communication. Whatever you do, be sure to meet this second deadline. Two missed deadlines in a row is bad news for a an employee’s work reputation.
How often do you think people lie to you when they commit a deadline and how do you tackle the situation when they don’t comply to an agreed deadline?? Please share your thoughts in the comments section below as I learn just as much from you as you do from me. Thanks.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Imtiaz Ahmad is a qualified finance professional from ICAEW & ACCA with 15+ years of experience; worked for a diversified range of industries in Pakistan and Middle East. He is a seasoned Coach, Mentor, Counselor and Trainer in Accountancy and Finance profession too. He has 500+ students who got qualified ACCA, CA and CMA to his credit, in different countries around the globe.