There is definitely an art to creating deadlines that work and people stick to. You want deadlines to stick as this enables you to achieve more, be it a personal, business or even leisure activity type deadline. But, if you tend to underestimate how long something will take, or you simply can’t do certain tasks fast, you may constantly miss deadlines that you set for yourself or that other have set for you. There are however a few things you can do to try and ensure that you can set deadlines that stick.
Do Your Homework
When you approach anything that need to have a deadlines, don’t just look at the end result; look at the tasks involved that take up the work to get to the end result. Understand exactly what is involved with each step. Find out how long it generally takes other people to do the same task, because if you don’t, you can’t give yourself a reasonable deadline that you can achieve.
Test It Out
When you are asked to do something new that you haven’t done before and you need to set a deadline, try out a small portion of the task to see how long it takes, this then allows you to make a better prediction on time. Remember that when someone else is asking you for a deadline or even suggesting deadlines; if they don’t know what the tasks involves, they’re almost certainly just pulling a date out of thin air. You can do better than that.
Understand the Scope of Works
Ensure that you ask the right questions about the project so that you know what the true scope of works is. For example, you’re a web designer and someone says, “How much does it cost to build a website?” That leaves a lot of questions unanswered and is open to an almost endless amount of possibilities. There is no way to make a deadline with that information, so you would have to nail the scope of works right down in order to give a specific deadline.
Start at the End
Every project has a final deliverable, start with that deliverable in mind and work your way backwards through all the tasks that need to get done to reach that final deliverable. Make an outline for each project so that you know everything that has to be done. Some people find it useful to make a mind map for each project, or to use a Gantt chart as this will give you a visual representation of the steps involved, allowing you to set a deadline that will stick.
Break Down Large Projects
There is much more to a project than the deliverables, there are numerous steps leading up to the end product or end result. For example if you set a deadline to lose 50 lbs in weight, sorry but I’m on a diet at the moment. And you decided you wanted to lose 1 lb. a week, you know that you need to burn an extra 3500 calories a week over your body’s needs in order to accomplish that task. Now, what steps will that take? The same can be stated about a project like a website or even building a house. First you need a domain name, then you need to pick colors, then you need to choose design elements, WordPress theme, and so forth.
Set Mini Deadlines
Once you break down a project into much smaller chunks, set deadlines for each of those pieces of the project. Some things you will fine will have to be done in a particular order, with other things it don’t matter. Knowing this helps with assigning and delegating tasks and setting deadlines for them.
Add In a Little Padding
There is a law called Hofstadter’s Law which basically says that everything takes longer than you think. So, add in some extra time, padding if you like. Commonly people multiply the time they think it will take by 1.5. However, if you find you are not meeting deadlines, determine the factor you need for your deadlines, for example it might be two times your initial estimate.
Link to Hofstadter’s law
Remember you’re not really a superhero and while you want to be impressive as a person, don’t try to do too much at once. Look at your complete schedule, include free time, sleeping time, family time, alone time, eating, exercise, appointments and so forth into your schedule so that you can be realistic about how much time you have to work on any given project or part of a project.
Creating deadlines that stick is a process that requires some thought especially as we all think we’re actually better at things than we generally are. But, once you get into the habit of making deadlines that stick, you’ll be able to get much, much more done each day and you’ll remove a lot of the causes of stress. We all tend to fill up our time with something, why not fill up your time with activities and actions that are designed to get things done?