Never Miss Another Deadline
By Gail Doby, ASID
CVO & Co-Founder, Gail Doby Coaching & Consulting & Design Success University
Fulfilling your obligations is the mark of a true professional, and that includes meeting deadlines. If you struggle to keep on top of your commitments, take some time to think about what’s getting in your way. It usually comes down to one of two things, poor time management or poor personal management. Whichever is hampering you, you can overcome it.
With so many demands on your time, it can be a challenge to maintain control of your schedule. It requires planning and structure. The following steps can help you become master of your calendar:
• Allocate time for each part of a project. When you first take on a new project, break it down into specific, doable steps, and then assign a number of hours and a due date to each step. Be realistic. A flow or process chart can be a useful aid. Project management tools can help you with this.
• Pre-plan each week and month. You only have so many hours in a day and so many days in a week. Plot out when you will devote your time to each task, including when you will do your planning each week. Leave time open in your schedule for unanticipated and non-work activities.
• Keep your schedule visible. Use a wall or desk calendar, bulletin board, or some other visual aid to remind you of your commitments for each day, week and month. Highlight critical deadlines and other key dates. Check it every day. Color-coding by project, type of activity, and/or level of priority makes it quick and easy to check on your progress and anticipate upcoming deadlines.
• Use multiple reminders. In addition to your calendar, use to-do lists, sticky notes, verbal messages, and/or electronic alerts to reminder you of important upcoming meetings and deadlines. A number of apps are available for this purpose.
• Build in a cushion. Things happen. Add some extra time to your schedule to anticipate delays, setbacks and other unexpected occurrences.
All the calendars and alerts in the world are not going to help if you ignore them. You first have to care about meeting deadlines, and then you need to exercise the discipline to follow through. If you have difficulty getting or staying focused, try these strategies:
• Do; don’t fret. The cure for inaction is action. Start doing something related to the task at hand. Once your mind is engaged, it will lead you on to the next step. Leaving a task partially unfinished will make it easier to get started when you pick it up again the next day.
• Eliminate distractions. Some people can be very productive multitasking. If you’re not one of them, then don’t try to be. Shut down the email and text messages, turn off the phone, and let coworkers know you are not available for a certain period of time. Give all your attention to the task. The world will still be there when you get done.
• Acknowledge your accomplishment. Put a big check mark next to the task on your to-do list or calendar when your task is done. Reward yourself with a treat or by giving yourself some personal time for something you enjoy. Feeling good about your achievements is one of the best ways to reinforce your desire to accomplish more.
• Aim for consistency. As the saying goes, nothing succeeds like success. Following through on your tasks every day will help ingrain new work habits and overcome the feeling of being overwhelmed.
Even the best-laid plans can go wrong. At times, due to circumstances outside of your control, you may need to renegotiate a deadline. That, too, is part of being a professional, provided it’s the exception and not the rule.