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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