How to keep your deadlines
Hi! I'm Simón. As a project manager at a large international company, deadlines are a matter of course. Over the years I've become much better at planning and sticking to deadlines, but when I first started my career it was hard for my team and me.
A few times we had everything planned perfectly only to find that it was impossible to deliver on schedule because of an unexpected issue. It was the sort of thing that we should have included in our time estimates but didn't. And more than once I had to deal with irate customers and bosses. In the meantime I've learned from my mistakes and would like to share with you some useful tips on deadlines and time management:
- Create a schedule for the entire process. It's not enough to say when you'll be done; you also need to set milestones along the way. These milestones serve as checkpoints and give you adequate time to adapt in the event of unforeseen issues, which brings me to my next tip...
- Include time for unforeseen events and issues. No matter how carefully you plan, something will inevitably not go according to plan. The best way to counteract this is to leave yourself a buffer. This has a double positive effect: you have the time if you need it and your customer and boss will be pleased if you end up finishing ahead of schedule.
- Set priorities. In every project there are many tasks that need to be completed, but it is important that you know how to make sure the most important tasks are dealt with first. This also helps you and your team stay focused since prioritizing allows you to save your attention for the tasks being done right now.
- Reject unrealistic deadlines. We've all been in the position: the boss wants something done sooner than you can possibly manage. Unfortunately, you tell him or her yes anyway only to then fail to meet the deadline as you knew you would. It is much better and much more professional to tell your boss or customer up front that a deadline simply isn't realistic.
Take it from me, you should always remember the consequences of failing to meet a deadline. Depending on your project, others may have made plans based on you meeting your deadlines. You failing to meet yours could have severe consequences for others, for example not having a part they absolutely needed by the deadline.