The word “deadline” derives, in part, from a line that was once drawn around a prison. If an escapee crossed the line, he was shot dead. Thus, deadline.
If the thought of that red-circled calendar date (OK, I’m old school) makes you yearn for the sweet release of death – either your own or the person who is holding up your project’s completion – you are not alone. Meeting deadlines is difficult, even if you’re the only person on the task team. The task gets exponentially harder if you’re dealing with other people who also have many, many other irons in the fire.
So, how do you avoid failure and/or insanity? Get — and stay — organized.
1. Plan for the finish line
When the project is getting started, look at what needs to be done and set an end date. Make sure everyone involved invests in that date. If it’s a recurring project, like a newsletter or magazine, look at any and all breakdowns in the previous issue’s production. Talk about those speedbumps and learn from them. If one person is an ongoing problem, figure out how to reroute the work or remove them from the process.
2. Set benchmarks along the way
It’s ever-so-easy to have a planning meeting, set an end date and then wish everyone a happy and successful project. Then, when it’s deadline day two months later, the excuses start rolling in. Despite rumors to the contrary, having a quick, weekly check-in with project stakeholders isn’t micromanaging; It’s putting out a fire before it consumes the forest. It’s a lot easier to take projects in chunks, and this ensures all players are doing their part.
3. Be flexible, within limits
Anything can change, so be ready to bend a bit. Your graphic designer may take a new job, or that testimonial you wanted to lead with won’t pass muster with the legal department. Paintings often look very different from preliminary sketches, so be ready to adapt as the process unfolds, and do so as quickly and decisively as possible.
People remember who kept them on task and helped them achieve success, so be that trusted resource when your employees need advice or guidance. Mapping out a strategy – and sticking with it – brings positive results, and a job well done is one that people want to do again.