Meeting project deadlines can be a source of heavy pressure and concern for many people.
- Why is meeting project deadlines so difficult?
- Why are deadlines in projects important?
- Managing a deadline
- 1. Meeting project deadlines: Assessing what is needed
- 2. Meeting project deadlines: Getting the right resources
- 3. Meeting project deadlines: Considering possible problems
- 4. Meeting project deadlines: Planning down to the detail
- 5. Meeting project deadlines: Limiting the damage of a missed deadline
- Manage yourself before managing project deadlines
It’s not just the project manager who cannot sleep with peace of mind, but also the stakeholders, project sponsors and the entire company. Even third-party companies that could benefit from a successful project are anxious about meeting project deadlines.
Deadlines are key for almost any task or role and are essential to the smooth sailing of any project or organization. Let’s have a look at how you can make sure to not lose sight of them.
Why is meeting project deadlines so difficult?
First and foremost, it’s important to understand why we all have this tendency of missing deadlines.
One of the reasons is because procrastination motivates human beings. It is called the Yerkes-Dodson law.
Simply put, as our excitement (in this case, stress) increases, so does our ability to perform the task.
We’ve probably all experienced at least one time how impressed we were with how quickly we were able to get something done the night before a deadline.
And that’s because the stress of that rapidly approaching deadline gave us a much-needed boost.
But in all of this, a problem arises: using this stress as a motivator only works up to a certain degree.
If this becomes too much, performance not only declines, but you will end up suffering some bad consequences.
Why are deadlines in projects important?
Typically, you have deadlines in your projects for one of the following reasons:
- To ensure the completion of a task. It’s easy to delay or forget a task that doesn’t have an agreed-upon end point. Deadlines help avoid this.
- To promote a smooth workflow. Deadlines help us collaborate toward a shared goal and keep complex, multi-phased projects on track.
- To set expectations. Deadlines make it clear what we expect to deliver and when. This means taking control of our work, without confusion.
- There can also be serious consequences for missing a deadline. On a personal level, it can damage a person’s reputation and career prospects, especially if it happens more than once.
- It can also be extremely damaging on an organizational level. Failure to meet a deadline will likely impact an organization’s reputation and can have serious financial implications if that delay triggers a penalty clause in a contract.
There are two main areas to focus on when you need to stay on schedule with a project: managing the deadline and managing yourself.
Managing a deadline
Most of us are likely to simply accept a deadline we are given, but it is worth considering it carefully before agreeing to it.
People often underestimate the time it takes to complete projects, so the deadline that has been set may not be realistic, and sometimes deadlines are set unnecessarily early to avoid problems when delivery is late.
So what should you do before accepting a deadline? Here are five life-saving tips for meeting project deadlines:
1. Meeting project deadlines: Assessing what is needed
First, you need to understand exactly what the activity involves and map out what work needs to be done
Ideally, the person who set the deadline will have taken into account the complexity of the work, but this is not always the case.
2. Meeting project deadlines: Getting the right resources
Make sure you have what you need to get the job done promptly.
Do you have the people, technical support, equipment, training and materials ready and available on time?
Otherwise, you may have to suggest a longer schedule or a lowering of the quality or quantity of work that will be delivered on time.
3. Meeting project deadlines: Considering possible problems
Things don’t always go according to plan, so it’s wise to think about potential problems.
For example, how would an illness, equipment failure, or unexpectedly urgent competing activity affect plans?
Consider what contingencies you could work out to minimize the impact.
One solution might, for example, be to notify the project leader or a colleague so they can cover for you or another member of your team in case of an emergency.
4. Meeting project deadlines: Planning down to the detail
The next step is to draft a detailed schedule.
A good approach is often to break tasks down into small parts with a WBS and create deadlines for each one.
Doing so, you may find that you need more time than the overall deadline allows.
5. Meeting project deadlines: Limiting the damage of a missed deadline
Despite all your hard work and foresight, you may still miss a deadline.
If this happens, keep calm and make every effort to limit the damage.
Keep project stakeholders informed of progress as you work, highlight any issues that may cause delays, and show that you are putting your contingency plans in place.
That way, if you can’t deliver on time, more people will understand the situation and some may be willing to help.
In such a situation, it’s best to address the problem quickly and agree on a new deadline.
However, missing a deadline can have broader implications.
For example, as mentioned earlier, if you are working with a client or an outside organization, there could be a financial penalty or it could damage your reputation.
Either way, be sure to take responsibility, avoid making excuses or dumping problems on others, and focus on providing everything you can as soon as possible.
Manage yourself before managing project deadlines
The other important factor in meeting a deadline is the individual itself.
Here are some ideas to consider:
- Be assertive: learn to say “no” when appropriate, or at least get space to consider a deadline before accepting it.
- Change your mindset: adopt a positive attitude toward deadlines instead of looking at them as something negative. Deadlines can help you achieve goals you might otherwise put off.
- Don’t mistake “planning” with “doing”: no matter how good a plan is, if you don’t turn it into action, it remains just an abstract thing that doesn’t bring any results.
- Make good use of time: avoid trying to multitask, as it is not efficient, and work efficiently, especially when the deadline is near.
- Make meeting deadlines a habit: starting by working toward smaller deadlines in your daily work can help you transfer this habit to larger deadlines when they arise.
Time is money, so keeping a steady pace will accumulate valuable minutes to make a difference at the end of the project.
While they might not always be liked, especially when they seem to be approaching at very high speed, deadlines are a necessity for keeping projects on track.
Speaking of deadlines, don’t forget that a good project management software with an effective and reliable Gantt can be greatly beneficial. Try Twproject’s Time Schedule free by clicking the button below.