Stay up to date and never miss a deadline

Do you suffer from procrastination? At the start, it always seems like you have plenty of time before you have to submit a project, a paper or a design. Before you know it, the deadline is approaching quickly, then it looks like you’re in danger of missing it, then you’ve missed it. Failing to meet a deadline can be very unpleasant and have serious consequences. It’s a fact, however, that it’s easy for deadlines to get lost amidst a stressful daily work routine. To help you stay on top of your work and deadlines, we’ve put together ten helpful tips that will help you stay on track.

1. Write your deadlines down

If you set a deadline over the phone or in conversation, always send an e-mail afterwards to confirm what you discussed. This not only signals to your counterpart that you take the deadline seriously, but it also helps you to remember it. To keep track of everything, it’s also a good idea to write down all the important points by hand. Most importantly, highlight the deadline in your calendar. If you don’t have a calendar yet, you can find a selection here.

2. Get clear on your goals and consequences
With some projects, it later becomes apparent that the task was unclear from the beginning. So, before you start anything, make sure your goals are clear. Be sure you know exactly what your counterpart expects from you by the end of the deadline. To avoid misunderstandings, make sure that both parties agree on the expectations. Also, make sure that you’re aware of the consequences if you miss the deadline.

3. Don’t promise what you can’t deliver
Before you agree to a deadline, you need to take a critical look at it. Remember to include the idea of saying no or pushing the project back, if possible. If you’re already very busy, it’s not good for anyone if you take on additional work that you simply can’t do. Your counterpart will appreciate your honest assessment more than a missed deadline.

4. Plan for problems
Always be realistic about deadlines and don’t agree to one that doesn’t work. To deliver high-quality work on time, you need a buffer. That way, you still have time for your own adjustments, further correction rounds and unexpected problems. After all, something small can always happen, no matter how easy the project may seem.

5. Set your priorities
Think of each piece of a larger deadline as a small project that needs to be completed within a certain timeframe, and treat them that way. Set your own deadlines and priorities for them for each individual task. One good way of doing this is by working with post-its that you move as the situation changes. Consider in advance which approach makes the most sense and which task must be checked off first. Doing this will help you reach your goal step by step.

6. Focus – and don’t get distracted
Concentration and focus are essential to meeting deadlines, so you should be sure to minimise distractions. For example, if you work in an open-plan office, you should find a quieter place. If you don’t have a place to retreat to, headphones or earplugs can help. The same goes for your home office: create an environment to help you concentrate.

7. Take short breaks
If your concentration does drop, a short break will help! Five minutes of fresh air or a few quiet moments with a tea or coffee can often work wonders. A little exercise never hurts, so feel free to take a spin around the block. In the office, a quick chat with colleagues can be effective.

8. Get help as soon as you need it
If you need help to meet your deadline, there’s no harm in asking for it. Just make sure that you get whatever support you need early enough. Decide quickly which tasks you can hand over to which person and which tasks will stay with you. Inform everyone involved in good time and, in case of doubt, offer an alternative immediately.

9. Always have a Plan B
Even if your planning is good and the deadline is far away, something can always go wrong. It’s Murphy’s Law. That’s why it never hurts to have a Plan B. Again, communicate it early and don’t wait for the deadline.

10. Reward yourself
How about a little reward as a motivation booster? Surely it makes work go easier and quicker if you have something to be excited about when it’s done. Plus, you can turn a deadline into something you enjoy instead of something you dread! What would be a suitable reward for har work? Chocolate or cookies can be a great motivational booster.