by: HARVEY MACKAY, author of The Mackay MBA of Selling in the Real World, is founder of the MackayMitchell Envelope Co. He has written six bestsellers, including Swim with the Sharks Without Being Eaten Alive.
- Start with specifics. When exactly is the deadline? Clarify whether “end of the week” means 5 p.m. Friday or first thing Friday morning. And hammer down the results: What does your client want? How will they measure your effectiveness?
- Negotiate. Better to do it now rather than later. Is the deadline realistic? Suggest alternative dates, or work out what other tasks you should put on hold in order to give the deadline the attention it deserves.
- Break the task down. “Complete big project by Friday” is not an action item. Start with the biggest tasks and break them down into individual steps that have their own deadlines.
- Build in a buffer. As you schedule individual tasks, give yourself a cushion. Mark the due date a few days ahead of the actual deadline so you have time to deal with changes or last-minute emergencies.
- Make it OK for people to ask for help. No one gets extra points for trying to be a hero. It’s far better for the team (and your client) if employees admit early on that they need more time or extra manpower. Check in often; your job as the leader is to help the team remove potential roadblocks before they become full-flown crises.
- Get started. Don’t end the first project-planning meeting without assigning everyone a next step and a deadline. This will help the team focus on the small steps in front of them and not the magnitude of the project ahead.
Deadlines aren’t bad. They help you organize your time. They help you set priorities. They make you get going when you might not feel like it. And meeting deadlines successfully is one of the best motivating factors out there.