I hear you; deadlines can be scary and stressful. But the truth is they are often the only reason we get anything done. The word ‘deadline’ used to have a literal meaning. Originally, it was ‘a line around a prison over which prisoners weren’t allowed to go and it came with the penalty of being shot.’ Today, deadlines are associated with work and the penalties now are lax than before. However, the original concept stands still. Deadlines can be a matter of life or death for your job, a project or even productivity.
Some of us have the habit of pushing our tasks back so much that we take them to the last minute or sometimes just past the deadline. This can happen to anyone. If you are dread towards deadlines, it may be because you are taking it all wrong. Deadlines aren’t really supposed to scare us, they are there to set priorities, manage our time and get things done.
If you are having trouble managing your deadlines, you are not alone. I am about to share some hacks that will ensure you never miss a deadline again. Here you go:
1. Set reasonable expectations
The first rule is to complete your tasks within the set timeline. For that, you have to be realistic in terms of setting a deadline. Be realistic about how quickly you can finish a task. You already know things can get off track. If you are unsure about how much time a project or a particular task would take, ask a person with experience. Don’t try to be a superman. In short, don’t bite more than what you can chew!
2. Keep the tasks descriptive
This happens often. We can get vague when it comes to describing a task. Instead of just writing ‘return Fatima’s call, state the reason why you need to call her. If you want to get the task done on the first go, then add more details. In this way, when the time comes, you will know what’s exactly required and hence you can do it and cross the task out of your to-do list.
The bigger tasks are usually the ones that take most of your time. They are difficult to complete in the first go and hence why they linger on our to-do list more. If you want to get them done, then break them into small tasks. This makes each task more manageable and you can even track the process of the entire project effectively.
3. Prioritize your tasks
You must carefully prioritize your tasks if you actually want to finish a project in time. If you aim to get 10 things done in a day, you must have 3 to 5 things set on priority to really accomplish something that day. Remember Maslow’s hierarchy of needs theory? It was introduced by Abraham Maslow in 1943. It consists of 5 hierarchies; self-actualization, esteem, love/belonging, safety and psychological. Each hierarchy describes the pattern through which human motivations move. You can use this hierarchy to prioritize your tasks. Write down your motivation layers. Whenever you are stuck and can’t decide what should be your priority, just visualize it according to Maslow. That will help you list down the high priority tasks.
4. Eat the frog
According to a survey, on average, a person wastes 55 days of the year procrastinating and wastes 218 minutes each day doing things that are not important.
Stop procrastinating and list down the most important tasks of the day and target them first. Once you eat the frog, you will have nothing to worry about later on. As the big tasks are tackled, they are out your way. There is no pressure and anxiety anymore to prevent you from doing what’s left.
5. Give yourself a buffer
Experts recommend setting due dates before the real deadline. If you are terrible at sticking to the real deadline, a buffer will serve as a reminder to prepare yourself before the real deal. Forget the original deadline and mark the project due two days before the actual deadline in your calendar. If anything goes wrong, you have got yourself covered.
6. Keep the deadlines short
When the deadline is too far into the future, you put the task on the proverbial back burner. You make yourself believe that you have a lot of time at hand and hence nothing gets done. What happens next? Other things start taking your attention because they are relatively more urgent. As a result, you miss the deadline. The easy way to avoid this is to set short deadlines.
7. Delegate when necessary
Face it, you can’t really become the jack of all trades, especially when there is so much to do and the deadline is near. It’s OK if you don’t finish everything on your own; you don’t really have to. Stop trying to be perfect at everything by doing everything yourself. It can literally take hours to complete a task that you are not experienced in. Instead, these hours could be spent on something that you actually know or are comfortable with. So just outsource someone whom you can count on! Trust me, you won’t regret it.
Don’t forget to keep track of the progress. Often, when there is no accountability, we end up slacking off. But you can fix that if you have a task management software at hand to track the progress of your project. Keep a check on yourself throughout the project. Once you have successfully completed a part of your deadline, take a short break. It will give a boost to your productivity in the long run. And when you have completed the task within the deadline, then give yourself a reward. Buy something for yourself or just eat out!