Managing deadlines – six tips from an expert procrastinator

I haven't had anyone working for me directly for many years in a true line management fashion as opposed to occasionally on projects. So having appointed Claire as my intern for the summer, I need to think about what training and education I can provide that would be useful to her in whatever career she might eventually follow.

I think therefore I'll look at some general skills that may not get taught in more formal educational situations but are useful in any job. And we'll start today with deadline management - vital for procurement executives, management consultants, lawyers, accountants, professional golfers...  I'd like to think I'm pretty good personally with deadlines, although I do have a tendency to prevaricate somewhat and put off the work until the deadline is close enough to get scary - something a lot of us do, I suspect!

Anyway, here are my six tips, and I'd love to crowd-source any others that our readers think should be added to this list.

1. If you think a deadline is simply unachievable, say that as soon as possible and explain logically to the "owner" of the assignment why you think that is the case.

2. If you don't think a deadline is achievable because of your priorities or other work, then explain and offer an alternative date or time that you believe is achievable.

3. If you have accepted a deadline, you should do everything you can to meet it. There are of course good reasons why you may fail (illness, emergency, asteroids), but not many, and "I just didn't have time" is not one of them.

4. If you find during the assignment that you are not going to meet the deadline, tell the assignment owner as soon as possible. Apologise profusely and explain why - was it simply more work or it needed greater elapsed time than you anticipated? Or has something happened to get in the way? (See point 3).

5. Offer alternatives where possible - "I can deliver it a day later than planned" or "I can hit the due date but without completing the final Excel spreadsheet".

6. If you have failed to meet a deadline, then make absolutely sure you don't do it next time for the same owner.

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Voices (2)

  1. Toni:

    prevaricate or procrastinate?

    1. Peter Smith:

      ..who also needs an editor! Thanks!

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