They keep us motivated and on track. To make deadlines our friend, all we need are the right tools and mindset.
- Make sure they are reasonable from the beginning. Most of us have a tendency to underestimate time required for tasks, and we don’t take delays or problems into account.
- Establish milestones. Identify the key stages of the project and set an interim deadline for starting and completing each stage.
- Break tasks down into steps, and estimate time required for each step.
- Plan backwards. Start with the deadline and, working backwards, determine when steps within each task must be complete.
- Prioritize. Highlight the tasks that are most critical and that require the most coordination with others.
- Get started. Avoid a tendency to wait until a deadline draws near and to believe that we work better under pressure.
- Check in. Stay in close communication with team members and those from whom you need information.
- Set ground rules. Encourage people to ask for help and be clear about no surprises. If there’s a problem, you need to know.
- Cushion it a little but not too much. You want a little cushion to account for the unexpected, but don’t pad a timeline so much that you lose motivation and a sense of urgency.
- Make it visible. Post graphics or pictures—things that visually track achievement and progress.
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