Help! I will never meet my deadline. What do I do?
A colleague needed help with a large project. She has a tendency to procrastinate and occasionally misses deadlines. She is not alone. Many people have asked me how to accomplish something when they have limited time, are nervous about doing certain work, or feel overwhelmed by how much they have to do.
Missing a deadline is not an option for me. I believe strongly that if you have a deadline, you meet that deadline! You do what you need to do to accomplish the task. Here’s a list of things that I suggested to my colleague. You can adapt them to your situations:
1. Break the task into smaller sections. When you divide a large task into manageable portions, the project can seem more doable and less overwhelming.
2. Use your calendar and set time aside for your project. When you spell out that you will work on something at specific times, it’s more likely to happen. But be realistic when allocating your time. You want to set yourself up for success – not failure.
3. Let things go. It is important to prioritize – which means you may have to delay less important or less time-sensitive tasks until your project is finished. I always gave up housework when I was working on a book!
4. Take a social media break. It’s amazing how much time people spend on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube. A 2016 Nielsen report found that Generation Xers spend almost seven hours a week on social media, and Millennials squander more than six hours each week. Some reports say the average person spends 116 minutes a day on social media. So, you could gain an extra hour – maybe two – each day for your project simply by giving up social media for a while!
5. Ask for help. Can you delegate to gain some time? Can someone else run your meeting/prepare the slides/analyze the data/pick the kids up from school? This is a lot easier to ask of a colleague, partner, or friend if you have helped others in the past.
6. Multitask. I am not suggesting working on several things simultaneously as a regular routine, but when it’s crunch time, you need to up your game. Can you eat lunch or take your coffee break at your desk – while you continue to work? Be creative. When I was on deadline for my etiquette books, I still wanted to spend time with my son. I solved this dilemma by asking him to proof my writings. This allowed him to feel he was an important part of my work, and enabled us to be together in my office. (A side benefit – he has great manners!)
7. Exercise. Taking 20 minutes to walk, run, or stretch can help you to feel refreshed – and it also helps to dissipate any stress.
8. Anticipate problems. There will often be unforeseen hurdles — computer problems, equipment failures, or other people missing deadlines that affect your productivity. Think about potential problems ahead of time, and consider ways to overcome or avoid them.
9. Review and be accountable. Take a little time at the end of the day/week to review your progress. Stay positive and acknowledge what you have accomplished. This famous adage may be old but it’s still true: Rome wasn’t built in a day. Adjust your schedule, if necessary, to allocate more time to the project. You could also report to a trusted colleague or friend. My colleague would send me a daily text describing her accomplishments. She believed that this type of accountability helped her stay focused on her task.
10. Celebrate. When you meet your deadline, it’s time to celebrate. Thank the people who helped you, and enjoy your favorite indulgence. I always found chocolate chip cookies to be a great reward!
Additional suggestions on career success can be found in Pachter’s books, including The Essential of Business Etiquette: How to Greet, Eat, and Tweet Your Way to Success.
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