The feeling of a deadline rushing towards you can be dread-inducing. Unfortunately, unless you’re one of the lucky few blessed with exceptional time-management skills, it’s probably a feeling you’ve felt more than once. So how do the rest of us make sure we hit our deadlines on time? For a start, check out these five tips and learn some easy ways to improve your time management right away.
1. Know what your goal is.
At the start of a big project, some parts of the plan are bound to be sketched in rather than laid out in detail. This is inevitable — you can’t know exactly what a project will look like until it’s done — but it can also leave you without a clear idea of what you’re supposed to be accomplishing. Without clear goals, you can waste time trying to understand your task in the first place, and deadlines can be forced back if you suddenly find out your job is bigger than you thought. By being as clear as possible about what you’re doing from the start, you’ll be better able to estimate the time and effort required.
2. Only promise what you can deliver.
If you’re a people pleaser, you’ll know how tempting it is to promise what you think the other person wants to hear, even if you aren’t sure if or how you can do it. If this is you, start trying to train yourself to not make in-the-moment commitments when you don’t have to. Instead, say you’ll look into it and respond later when you’ve had a chance to think about what you have the time and ability to accomplish.
3. Make a plan.
Once you’ve determined what you’re trying to do, map out how you’re going to do it. Depending on the complexity of the task, you may have to break it out into many smaller tasks or even delegate some parts to others. Making separate deadlines for these smaller tasks will make it easier for you to stay on track and to know when you’re ahead or behind on meeting the overall deadline.
4. Avoid distractions.
Few of us can resist the siren call of unread emails or funny videos when we’re working on something we’d rather not be. Unfortunately, deadlines don’t go away just because you want them to. To beat distractions, figure out what tempts you away from your work and think of ways to remove those things entirely. That might mean turning off your phone and disabling Wi-Fi, or it could mean stepping away from your home or office to work in a coffee shop where you won’t be bothered. Whatever draws you away from getting things done, find a way to avoid it when you’re working towards a deadline.
5. Know when to ask for more time.
Though it looks bad when you blow through a deadline because you didn’t manage your time properly, there are good reasons why a deadline should be extended. Unforeseen circumstances and new opportunities can arise, making the original timeline inadequate to accomplish what you need. When you know how to recognise these cases, you can make a reasonable request that you get more time, clearly defining what end goals are changing and how much more time you need.