Meet your deadlines with these tips
Missing deadlines can wreck a workplace—and your reputation. This is how to stay on target.
Ah, deadlines. Some professionals thrive on them, yet many people find them the most vexing of time-management tools. Nonetheless, when the clock is counting down on an assignment, you need to deliver—not crack under pressure.
“A client, co-worker, or boss isn’t just throwing out any old date of when they need something,” says Andrea Kay, a career consultant based in Cincinnati and author of This Is How to Get Your Next Job: An Inside Look at What Employers Really Want. “Your contribution fits into a bigger project and the pieces need to come together. So take your deadline seriously.”
Not only is making your deadlines a practical way of avoiding inconveniences down the road, it also does a little something for your reputation. “By hitting your deadlines consistently, people will know they can count on you,” Kay adds. “They’ll see you as a professional, and they’ll be willing to help you out when you’re facing a deadline.”
Implementing these strategies will help you manage your deadlines effectively and meet them consistently.
Make an assessment
Some deadlines are, frankly, unattainable from the get-go, especially when you’re flying solo. When you receive an assignment with an unrealistic deadline, it’s your responsibility to speak up. Express your concerns to your manager, and ask if you can reach out to co-workers for help to get the job done on time. After all, it’s better to push back up front than to accept an assignment, fail to complete it on time, and make an excuse for why you couldn't get it done.
Once you get the help you need, share the accomplishment with your co-worker, and let them know that you’re available to return the favor if they need any help in the future.
Once you’ve determined the workload is manageable, your next step should be to ask your manager to confirm the deadline, Kay says. (“Just so I’m clear, you need this research for the proposal by 5 p.m., Eastern Daylight Time, on February 5. Correct?”) “Then use a tool—electronic or a paper calendar, whatever system works for you—that helps you track when you’ll work on it and when it’s due,” Kay recommends.
Break down the project into mini deadlines
“If a project is due in three weeks, it may seem like you have a lot of time and you may be tempted to wait until the deadline approaches,” says Monster career expert Vicki Salemi, “but in reality, you don't have ample time.”
Instead, set deadlines for specific tasks to make a big project more manageable.
Small rewards along the way are valuable time management tools to lean on. Celebrating milestones, even small ones, can give you the mental boost that you need to keep going. So, reward yourself when you accomplish a mini deadline by stepping away from your desk.
“Sometimes we're so driven that our brain goes into overdrive, and we need to take a step back,” says Salemi, who recommends taking a 15-minute walk to give yourself a breather or treating yourself to a healthy snack.
Block off your time
Devoting blocks of time in your calendar to specific tasks will enable you to fully utilize your time at work. For instance, you might designate 10 a.m. to 11 a.m. on Fridays to give your boss progress updates. “Put it on your calendar,” says Kay, “and make an appointment with yourself that you’re not going to break.”
Give yourself some breathing room
When carving out time blocks in your calendar, it’s important to factor in additional time, especially for detail-oriented tasks that will require you to proofread your work. “This gives you more time to add or fix whatever needs touching up without feeling pressure,” Kay says.
Another reason to give yourself extra time: “Interruptions occur, life happens, and you may have setbacks and delays,” Salemi says.
Staying focused is crucial, of course, but many people make the mistake of getting sidetracked by their smartphones or social media. Your best approach? “Turn off phone alerts or remove your phone from your immediate work area to eliminate distractions,” suggests Barbara Safani, owner of Career Solvers, a New York-based career-search consulting firm.
To keep chatty co-workers at bay, close your office door, move to a quiet part of the office, or hang a sign on your cubicle that indicates you’re busy.
Capitalize on your successes
Building a reputation for yourself as someone who always meets their deadlines will go a long way, especially when it comes time for your manager to review your compensation. But being able to get your work done on time is just one characteristic of an all-star employee. Want to excel further in your career? Join Monster for free today. As a member, you'll get workplace trends, career advice, and job search tips sent right to your inbox to help you hone your skills and establish yourself as a top performer—one who doesn’t shy away from deadlines.