Since I’ve spent the past week working with students who failed to meet the deadline of completing their courses by the end of the school year, it seems like a good time to remind you of the importance of deadlines.
Deadlines are simply a fact of life, and they keep us focused on tasks to be completed. While you establish some deadlines for yourself to stay organized, many are created by others.
Of course, payments you make to the utility company, cable company, your landlord or mortgage holder as well as other payments are one of the most common deadlines you need to meet. As you know, failure to make payments on time result in extra fees and poor credit scores, both things you want to avoid.
However, the deadlines relating to work or school projects also need to be taken seriously. These deadlines not only affect you, but other employees and when missed may delay the next step in the process or service. Three important reasons to meet deadlines on these projects:
- Being late tells your employer or client or professor that you do not value them or their time. You don’t feel their priorities matter.
- Others will think you are disorganized if you do not complete tasks on time.
- You will be viewed as unreliable and your credibility will be undermined.
On occasions when you schedule and manage your own projects, make deadlines a part of this process as well. By doing so you’ll find you’re more productive and can prevent work overload with a carefully planned schedule. You’ll also feel a tremendous sense of accomplishment as you meet your goals, but remember there are a few things you should keep in mind as you develop your own deadlines:
- Don’t make promises you can’t keep. It’s better to just learn to say no.
- Schedule your time on a calendar to avoid procrastinating.
- Write down your deadlines and the steps required to meet them.
- Figure out the right time limit. Since work expands to fill the available time, if you set a time limit that pushes you, you can probably get it done faster. On the other hand, be realistic. Not everything can be done tomorrow. Not everything is a crisis.
- Consider using a timer to keep from working too slowly. (This is the only way I can get housework done.)
- Anticipate delays. Make sure you have a plan to deal with problems that arise, because problems do arise. (I warned my students that a disruption in Internet service should be anticipated, and sure enough thunderstorms knocked out electricity or Internet for some.)
- Prioritize. Start with the most important steps so if you run short on time you can complete non-critical steps quickly or perhaps leave them out altogether.
Finally, don’t let perfectionism be an excuse for failure to meet deadlines. It’s easy to get “decidaphobia” or the fear of making a mistake. You may want to use the Marine Corp 70% rule to help you overcome this problem. The rule states that if you have 70% of the information needed to make an informed decision and you have 70% of the resources you’ll need to get it done, and you’re 70% sure it will work, go with it. A well-executed, yet imperfect plan gets more results than taking no action at all. There’s no such thing as perfection. It’s better to execute the plan than waste time and miss the deadline. If this is good enough for the Marines, it’s good enough for you.
Please, meet deadlines!