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How to master deadline management

May 27, 2021

Are you chronically late to Procrastination Station? If your deadlines are overwhelming, we promise there’s a light at the end of the tunnel.

The true secret to nailing your deadlines is boosting your productivity. (We promise it’s easier than it sounds.) Don’t believe us? Follow along as we guide you through our top seven tips for increasing productivity and mastering your deadlines once and for all.

1. Know what your goals are

Having a vision for your role is great. But if your goals aren’t tied to company goals, you’ll see a pretty big gap between what you’re doing and what keeps the organization moving forward.

Before you land on a deadline for a project, make sure you know exactly what you’re working on and how it impacts the organization. Consider asking questions like:

  • What’s the context behind this project?
  • When this project is completed, what happens next?
  • What metrics will we be using to measure the project’s success?
  • What is the end result we’re looking for? Why?

2. Break big goals into smaller pieces

Big goals require a big commitment—and sometimes, it’s hard to know where to start. One thing’s for sure: You need to define what qualifies the goal as “done.” Otherwise, you could be spinning your wheels trying to perfect a project that’s already accomplishing what you need it to.

In Traction® Tools, we use Milestones to help break large goals down into smaller, bite-sized pieces. The Milestone method allows you to map out precisely what needs to be done to accomplish the goal and keeps you from getting bogged down by a bigger, potentially overwhelming vision.

Hot tip: When using Milestones, give them deadlines, too! This will help you structure your workload to avoid spending too much (or not enough) time on a single segment of the goal. Plus, it’ll help you estimate exactly how much time you need to accomplish each section and give insight into when the goal can be completed.

3. Have a checklist

Have you ever said, “I don’t need to write that down; I’ll remember it.”? This thought process is as common as it is untrue—and the solution is a checklist.

Checklists keep you on track, and prevent little (but essential) To-Dos from falling through the cracks. Plus, they also give you a sweet, sweet sense of accomplishment as you cross off each item on your list.

The best part? Nowadays, there are tons of different checklist types to choose from. If you’re not sure where to start, check out some of our favorites:

  • The To-Dos section in Traction Tools
  • A notes application on your computer
  • Post-its
  • A physical notebook (Hand-written notes will never go out of style.)

4. Minimize interruptions

If you’re being pulled in a million different directions, your productivity is probably suffering from it. You might set time aside to work on a project, but emails, messages, social media, lunch breaks, that little thing you forgot that will “only take a second”… they all play a part in keeping you from crossing things off your list.

Don’t be afraid to exit out of your email or messaging apps at dedicated times throughout the day. Not only will it benefit whatever project you’re working on, but you’re also indirectly giving yourself the mental space you need to be more proactive and intentional in your progress.

5. Hone your time management skills

When you start feeling like there aren’t enough hours in the day, it’s time to audit your calendar. One of the biggest mistakes we see people make is overpromising how much time they have to meet a deadline. Keep in mind that your workday isn’t 24 hours!

Let’s assume your workday is 8 hours long. It’s important to remember that all 8 of those hours probably won’t be dedicated to getting things done. You also need to make time for:

  • Lunch break (or any other meal, depending on your work hours)
  • Bathroom breaks
  • Meetings
  • Administrative tasks
  • Internal and external communication

All in all, this might leave just a few hours at a time to work on something you previously thought you had all day to work on. Try decluttering your schedule to get a clearer picture of how much time you have in one day, and work from there.

6. Know when you’re the most productive

Everyone is at their best at different times of the day. If you know you have trouble focusing in the morning, leave space to work on projects later in the day, and vice versa.

With this in mind, give yourself time to plan ahead. If you know a project’s deadline is the first thing on Monday morning, and you work best in the afternoon, consider blocking out time in the afternoons the week prior. The goal of identifying weak spots (e.g., being unproductive in the morning) is not always to prioritize making them stronger. Sometimes, the priority is to find a way to work around them so you can get things done quicker, better and with less stress.

7. Give yourself a buffer

Is your deadline Friday at 5? Put in your calendar as Wednesday at noon. That’s pretty much it.

Now, you should definitely make a note of the hard deadline—but operating off of the assumption that it’s due earlier than it is will give you ample time to fine-tune and troubleshoot. Plus, you’ll ensure that you’re never late!

 

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