So, how good are you at meeting deadlines? Well, you must first understand that a deadline represents the FINAL date at which you are to complete or respond to something. This does not mean that you have to wait until the deadline date; simply that the deadline is the last point at which you must act. Unfortunately, deadlines have become somewhat flexible in society, causing many to virtually ignore them. We’ve gone from due dates to deadlines to “drop dead” deadlines to final-final deadlines.
Even with your book project, there are numerous deadlines to meet: the deadline to complete your book plan, to finish your book outline, to complete your manuscript, to edit or proof the document, to get the edited version to the printer, to send copies of your book to reviewers, etc., etc. Okay, you get the picture.
Deadlines pop up everywhere in your book production process. The key is to figure out how to meet these deadlines in the most efficient way with the least amount of stress. Here are a few ways to help you meet the deadlines in your life:
- Start with a plan. So much of your success with meeting deadlines is contingent upon having a solid plan. Whether it’s a life plan, a business plan, a book plan, a marketing plan, or some other plan, you must know what you want to accomplish. Your plan should also include why you want it, how you plan to accomplish it, how much it will cost, how much time it will take, and what your results should be. Each of these elements is extremely important to helping you complete projects on time and seeing the success you expect from any activity you undertake.
- Examine how realistic the deadline is based on the other activities in your life. If you know for sure that you can’t meet the deadline, try to change it; the sooner, the better.
- Prioritize the deadlines you must meet, not in order of the deadline itself, but in order of its importance to your ultimate goals. If completing your book is most important to you, look at the deadlines that relate to that project. Prioritize those first, in order of the deadlines. Then, take the next most important goal in your life and prioritize those deadlines. Perhaps generating more revenue or income is the next most important item for you. Look at the deadlines that relate to revenue-generating items and prioritize those by the deadlines.
- Take one bite at a time. As the saying goes: How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time. Okay, maybe elephant soup isn’t on your task list, but when you have big projects with short deadlines, or several projects with tight deadlines, it’s often easier to view them one task at a time. This is where your plan really helps. Setting a start and complete deadline for each task will help lead you through the process in an efficient and timely manner.
- Focus on one thing at a time. When you spring into action, try to focus on the activities of one deadline at a time. Multi-tasking is great, but it can be distracting and cost you more time in the long run. Focus on one deadline-driven activity at a time. Make progress, and then, if needed, switch your entire focus to another deadline-driven activity. Avoid trying to do several activities at the same time.
- Get help. Doing it all yourself is a recipe for disaster, especially when you have a multitude of things to do (and don’t we all?). Get off your high horse and enlist the expertise or assistance of others. You’ll likely find that delegating can help you meet the deadline sooner than you would trying to go it alone.
- Set reminders, either manual or electronic. These are excellent ways to remain on track with accomplishing tasks and meeting deadlines. Use an electronic task list with reminders that pop up onscreen. Post sticky notes in obvious places. Write key dates or activities on a dry-erase board or calendar. Create “tickler” files in your filing cabinet that show dates of the month and include activities for each date. Make a handwritten to-do list and keep it in your wallet, purse, or car.
- Cheat. If you know that procrastination is an issue for you, cheat a little. Set your personal deadline two weeks or so prior to the actual deadline. This way, you should feel the pressure to get the task done sooner. And seeing that you’re going to procrastinate anyway, you have a few extra weeks or days to get it done on time.
- Examine how you feel about the deadline. Honestly, there are times when you will view deadlines as stupid, limiting, distracting, or unnecessary. Consider why you feel that way. It could be that you have no connection to the project or the outcome, or that the WIIFM (what’s in it for me?) isn’t obvious. In this case, review the task, find at least one benefit that you could achieve (even if it’s the experience), then change your attitude and get ‘er done. Think about it this way: It’s only going to hurt for a little while!
- Learn to say no. Seriously, you can’t do it all. Biting off more than you can chew only leads to indigestion, exhaustion, and a really bad reputation. Learn to say no to new projects that interfere with what you’re already doing. Offering people options is one of the easiest ways to say no. When asked to meet a deadline that you know you can’t meet, your answer could be: “Sorry, I can’t help with that project because it doesn’t fit into my business model (or my life plan);” or “I can’t meet that deadline, but I could have it to you two weeks after that;” or “I’m unable to do it, but I know someone who could help you.”
What are some of your strategies for meeting deadlines?