You can look at any professional field and you will find deadlines. Deadlines are a necessary tool to ensure work is completed in a timely manner. Deadlines might feel like the “bane” of your customer’s existence, but with the proper support and structure, deadlines do not need to be panic-inducing. When putting together deadlines and to-do lists, it is easy to become trapped in a “doom loop” where fear of deadlines leads to lower productivity and an increase in anxiety. Your customer’s deadlines become your deadlines, so it is in your best interest to help your customers achieve their goals. Helping your customers meet their deadlines ultimately helps you and by supplying project and change management methods to your customers, you can make meeting deadlines less intimidating.
Why Deadlines Matter
There are a few reasons deadlines exist. Without a deadline, a lot of work would never be done or would take too long. It is easy to put off tasks for later and then forget the task entirely. If a project has no end date, it will drag out forever; we need deadlines to ensure the work is done. Deadlines also set expectations. Setting a deadline clearly establishes what is due when which eliminates confusion. Deadlines are not bad, they are a tool used to accomplish a goal, but that tool needs to be used correctly.
SMART Goals System
A deadline is often nothing more than a date looming on the horizon. It is important to break up a project into smaller goals with their own deadlines to make the larger deadline more manageable. Encourage your customers to adopt the SMART goals system for managing projects and deadlines. SMART stands for specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and time-bound. Combining these elements creates a system for managing a project that makes deadlines less scary.
Create short-term goals that have specific conditions. For example, instead of vowing to work on the project everyday for a certain amount of time, set a smaller specific goal that you can track each week. A goal of “work on the project” is very open ended, but a goal of “write three pages a week” is specific and easier to track.
Measurable goals are similar to specific goals. A vague goal to “increase social media presence by the end of the year” is hard to measure. What one person considers a raise in social media presence might not meet the expectations of a different person. Instead, set a goal of achieving a 10% increase in likes by the end of the year. This goal is specific and easily measured, making it easy to see if you met this goal or not.
Being challenged is motivating, but unrealistic or unattainable goals are not challenging, they are demoralizing and discouraging. Set goals that are possible to achieve. An attainable goal is different for every company, so advise your customers as best you can. Remind your customers that shooting for the stars is good, but expecting to land that shot every time is not.
When your customers are planning for a big project, remind them to be realistic about how long the project will take to complete. It can be tempting to rush a project and cram the work into a short time period, but this will ultimately lead to poor results. Encourage your clients to be honest with themselves and their teams about how much work they can accomplish in a certain amount of time. Also encourage customers to build a buffer into their deadlines. Things go wrong and mistakes happen, so create a deadline that accounts for possible issues.
Deadlines are useful tools, but they can be used poorly. A deadline that is too high-pressure or unrealistic can stifle productivity and creativity. Deadlines should also be reasonably flexible. It your customers are falling behind on their deadlines, suggest the deadline or measure of success be adjusted. It is important to update deadlines as the project unfolds and unforeseen challenges arise.
Deadlines can be daunting, but with the proper support and structure deadlines do not need to be a dark cloud looming overhead. Start by talking to your customers about their deadlines and understand their goals. Encourage them to apply the SMART goal system to ensure their projects are finished on time without any negative repercussions.
How SkillSource Learning Partners Can Help
Project management can be tricky to navigate and sometimes outside help is necessary to ensure a team adjusts to changes; that is where SkillSource Learning comes in. Whether you need a change management (CM) professional or a project manager (PM), SLP will work with you to ensure your key initiatives remain poised to reap your envisioned rewards. Through analysis, development, and implementation, SkillSource Learning will help your team achieve your goals.