After high school (or earlier), many of us have struggled with meeting deadlines. Poor time management skills and procrastination often lead to last-minute cram sessions which produce substandard work. At work, failing to meet deadlines is one of the cardinal sins that can easily get you fired.
An employee who fails to be punctual and achieve deadlines is no more than a broken cog in a machine and will be quickly replaced. How can professional procrastinators learn effective time management to successfully meet deadlines?
Breaking One Task Down Into Bite-Size Pieces
The lesson many of us never learn is that one large task can always be more easily accomplished in bite-size pieces over a long period. If you are given a project to complete in the next two weeks, the right time to get started is that very day.
When you first receive a project, you should take out a calendar and find a way to break it into four or more evenly spaced parts. Don’t just mark the final deadline date.
Give yourself mini-deadlines dates per segment and meet them, whatever the cost. Failing to meet one of your mini-deadlines should be regarded as a failure to meet the final deadline.
Some people, however, lack the self-discipline necessary to break one large task into several small ones. These people won’t worry if they miss one of their deadlines, procrastinating and pushing it back to the second, third, and final deadlines. They will only panic as the last deadline approaches.
A simple way to reinforce meeting your mini-deadlines is to reward yourself. If you completed the first phase of the project ahead of time, reward yourself with a night out, a nice dinner, or a gift for yourself. If necessary, pencil these in under each mini-deadline.
A variation of this would be to abstain from an addiction – such as candy, beer, or cigarettes – until the mini-deadlines are met, with no exceptions.
If you truly lack the self-discipline necessary to pull this off, you’ll need a partner – kind of like an Alcoholics Anonymous sponsor – who oversees your day-to-day activities to make sure you never veer off course.
Meeting deadlines is a lot like playing a good game of Chess. Good chess players plan five to ten moves. Bad chess players only concentrate on the current move.
If you always focus on events several days down the road, you’ll be better equipped to handle any potential crises that pop up. It also allows you to set aside a day or two before the final deadline to polish your project and add finishing touches. Don’t just focus on today – focus on the whole week.
Get Organized – Technology is your Friend
This is the number one reason people fail to meet deadlines. They simply aren’t organized. In this age of smartphones, tablets, and cloud computing, there’s simply no excuse to be disorganized.
Simply entering events in your Google Calendar will sync it across all your mobile devices so you can keep aware of all current deadlines. Cloud-based calendars and documents can also be shared and edited by collaborators, which makes working with a team a breeze.
File documents neatly in your computer or cloud-based storage. People often waste time finding digital bits and pieces of their projects when they aren’t organized, using “search” to desperately find the document they “swear was saved to the desktop”. Good self-discipline is reflected in good organizational skills.
Be Ready to Meet Short Notice Deadlines
Last, but not least, always be ready to meet short-notice deadlines. These occur at every workplace, upsetting employees and managers alike. If you were able to manage your time effectively, as shown in this guide, meeting a sudden short-notice deadline should be a breeze.
Smoothly and coolly meeting a last-minute deadline makes you look great – especially when your procrastinating co-workers are tearing their hair out.