6 Tips for Staying Ahead of Your Deadlines in the Workplace
We’ve all heard the saying, “It is not how long, but how well.” While it sounds kind of cute, it’s not entirely true in a work context. Every goal, project and task is measured by time. In fact, the T in SMART goals is Time-bound. So, it doesn’t matter how well you perform a task; if you miss the deadline, you’ve not met your goals.
Here’s what happens when you don’t meet deadlines. You become frustrated – you have all the answers but you deliver them too late, so you don’t get the appropriate credit. You lose clients. You cost your company money. You develop a bad reputation. And you eventually lose your job – no one wants to keep a liability.
Now, that doesn’t sound so fair, does it? But it is what it is. You’re not as smart as you think if you don’t keep to time. All your hard work goes to waste and no one sees your brilliance.
However, you can change that right now. The bird is in your hand – whether it lives or dies is up to you. You can choose to become more intentional about meeting deadlines and even staying ahead of them. The tips here will set you on the right path.
3 Major reasons why employees don’t meet deadlines
A man once saw weeds in his garden. Angrily, he brought out his garden scissors and hacked at them. He smiled contentedly at his hard work and went back into the house. The next day, the weeds were back. He kept cutting them until he realized he had to uproot the weed for a permanent result.
Likewise, if you don’t get to the root of what makes you miss deadlines, you’ll only be trimming the weed. The following are the three common reasons people miss deadlines in the workplace. See if yours is there.
Without clear communication about the deliverables of a task, meeting the deadline might be a problem. For example, if a superior gives their subordinates a task and says, “Get it ready by next week,” it’s vague. ‘Next week’ can mean anytime from Monday to Friday and Friday might be too late.
This is where project management software comes in. They help build a cohesive team by allowing teams to communicate project requirements, deliverables, roles and responsibilities. This removes any ambiguities about the expectations of a task.
Yes. Not all deadlines are realistic and expecting to meet them is a mirage. This is no fault of yours, but it will certainly affect your productivity. While tight timelines might stretch you to accomplish tasks faster, they will put you under undue pressure and lead to costly mistakes. A frank discussion with your boss on unrealistic deadlines is the way forward.
Lack of time management skills
Now, we’re at the crux of the matter. This is usually the main problem people have with meeting deadlines – they don’t know how to manage time. Research shows that 82% of people don’t have a time management system. They somehow just expect to meet deadlines magically.
Little wonder many workers don’t meet deadlines. Nothing happens until you make it happen. Time management skills won’t land on your laps. You have to be proactive about it. You have to learn and cultivate these skills.
6 Tips for staying ahead of your deadlines
It is apparent from the reasons listed above that some of the factors affecting missed deadlines are beyond your control. If your company doesn’t have a good communication culture or if your bosses set unrealistic timelines, there is little or nothing you can do about it.
However, there are factors within your control that you can work on. The tips below will help you manage your time more effectively.
Have a time management system
As mentioned earlier, you have to be deliberate about staying ahead of deadlines. This intentionality involves developing a time management system that will help you control your time. Your time management routines will be automated, such that everything falls into place and you achieve your goals.
Use document management software like SmallPDF
Manual document management wastes time and energy, letting you miss deadlines. However, a document management software like SmallPDF solves the problem. With it, you can convert PDF to editable Word document, merge, edit, compress and eSign PDF documents.
SmallPDF has the necessary tools for starting, managing and completing your tasks with digital documents. You can highlight and add text, freehand annotations, shapes and images with the software. This saves you tons of time and allows you to focus on more important tasks. Electronic filing has also utmost importance as it streamlines the process, eliminating the need for manual paperwork and reducing the risk of errors. By utilizing electronic filing, you can be more productive as it saves you valuable time, enabling you to prioritize and concentrate on other essential tasks.
Take advantage of a time-tracking software
When you’re juggling multiple tasks, you can easily lose track of time. A time-tracking software stops this from happening. It helps you accomplish your task within the set time frame without compromising the standard of your work. You can use this individually or as a team. It leads to improved employee productivity.
Practice the Eisenhower matrix
When you have multiple projects and tasks, you can get overwhelmed and lose focus. You just muddle everything together and start working. In the end, you might find out you’ve left out the most important tasks and missed your deadlines. The Eisenhower matrix helps you out of this misery. It lets you prioritize tasks effectively.
Here is how it works. You divide your tasks based on their importance and focus on, ignore and eliminate them accordingly. Tasks are divided into the following segments:
- Urgent and important
- Important and not urgent
- Urgent and not important
- Not important and not urgent
With this segmentation, you’re able to get the most important tasks done and meet your deadlines.
Adopt the Pomodoro technique
Working hard means working for long hours and getting burned out. Working smart means working for short spans and taking intermittent breaks. In the end, you achieve your goals and meet your deadlines without the burnout. This is what the Pomodoro technique proposes.
After prioritizing your tasks, start the first one and work on it for 25 minutes straight. When the time lapses, take a 5-minute break to stretch and unwind. Do this about four times before taking a longer break of 30 minutes. The time-tracking software discussed earlier becomes helpful here. You’ll find out that you’ll achieve more and be more refreshed.
Leverage the Iceberg method
The iceberg concept involves collating vital resources and notes for future use. When you do this, you have a repository of resources ready for use when you need them. This method will save you loads of time in research.
Here’s how you can leverage this method.
- Collate work-related articles, emails, videos, notes, etc.
- Properly tag and arrange them
- Store them
- Consult them whenever you have a task
5 benefits of staying ahead of your deadlines
Apart from not ruining your reputation and losing your job, here are other benefits of meeting your deadlines and staying ahead of them.
The time management tips you’ve been practicing will improve your power of concentration. You will be able to focus on a task and finish it successfully before embarking on another. This will boost your productivity and quality of work.
Prioritization is a vital aspect of time management. When you make it a habit, you do the right things at the right time and get the right results. You’ll eliminate unnecessary and mundane tasks from your schedule and use your time more productively.
When you use the tips listed above in your work, you see a boost in your productivity. You accomplish more in less time and the quality of your work is improved.
Meeting your deadlines increases the trust your superiors have in you. They can depend on you to deliver your work in good time without compromising quality. This increases your responsibility and, eventually, remuneration.
Pressure from unmet deadlines leads to stress. When you have a lot of pending work on your plate, your stress level shoots up, affecting your health and productivity. Meeting your deadlines removes this stress. You’re refreshed and not under any pressure to deliver because you have a working time management system.
Stay on top of your game with proven time-management tips
People who stay ahead of deadlines are assets. They not only get the work done, they show their employers that they take their job seriously and will do anything to meet the organization’s goals. These people are intentional about meeting deadlines and are committed to a working time management system.
Even though some factors causing unmet deadlines are beyond their control, they take charge of the ones they can control. Ultimately, they boost their productivity, increase their reliability, build a positive reputation and become company treasures.
Moyofade Ipadeola is a Content Strategist, UX Writer and Editor. Witty, she loves personal development and helping people grow. Mo, as she’s fondly called, is fascinated by all things tech.