Recently I was in a conversation about meeting deadlines with a group of Service Providers.
I really think it should have been about missing deadlines because nearly everybody was frustrated that they were consistently not meeting deadlines, they themselves had set.
Apparently, encouraged by my silence, someone said to me, “you very quiet...you know how to meet deadlines?
Yes, I do! And I meet them most of the time, too! I answered enthusiastically.
Oh! I forgot you're the self-development expert! You know something the rest of us don’t know?! We would love to hear!
Sarcasm aside, there are several reasons why meeting deadlines are important to Service Providers.
And there are also several reasons why you and most other Service Providers have problems meeting deadlines. Sadly, the reasons are staring you in the face but they're not sexy, so you ignore them.
Well, here are 7 things you can do that will really help you to overcome your problems meeting deadlines, once and for all.
1. Change the way you think of deadlines
I like the definition of deadline as researched by Robert Charles Lee.
“It was originally a military term, meaning a line of weapons fire aimed at killing anything moving, regardless of enemy or friendly troops present. If memory serves from my schooldays over 40 years ago, deadline was also a prison term, meaning a line drawn around a prison and prisoners crossing it will be shot.”
The reason I like this definition, is because whether it's in war, prison or business, it seems as though deadlines will kill you. And they do feel that way most of the time.
So now, one of my secrets to meeting deadlines is to think of them as "timelines." A timeline feels like something you can achieve while saving your own life. It creates a mental picture of being in control and meeting targets repeatedly.
Yes...it’s all in the mind but isn’t that where everything starts?
2. Remember: A deadline does not exist in a vacuum
I am amused when people try to live their lives in silos.
You leave your home problems at the door when you enter work and you leave your work problems at the door when you get home.
Really? Try that when work and home is in the same location...
Just imagine, you're caring for your sick mother, your son just lost $50,000 in his business and your partner is having a mid-life crisis.
I don’t know about you, but that's enough to kill my feelings for working, far less for meeting deadlines.
So if you're one of those people who believe that you can be productive 100% of the time, regardless of your personal issues, congratulations!
For the rest of us, accept that you have a life that's made up of many parts. Therefore, to meet deadlines consistently, you must consider all parts of that life when you make them.
3. Pay attention to your energy levels
If I know you, you lead a high-stressed lifestyle, as most small business owners do... going, going from morning until night.
And when you’re already tired and have one or more deadline to meet, meeting any of them will be difficult.
On the other hand, what if you live a harmonious life? You eat well, make time for exercise and support all this with “me time.” In this scenario, your energy levels are consistently high.
It follows then, that your capacity to meet deadlines will be higher, if your energy levels are consistently high.
So try to bring some balance in your life - physical, mental, emotional and spiritual. In this way, the energy will be already there, so to achieve a timeline, all you need will be a shift in priorities.
4. Accept that how soon after the proposal you get the job is of essence
Are you familiar with this? I am...
You meet a potential client. The meeting goes very well. You send them the requested proposal. And on time. Then the time you set for a response comes and goes and you cannot hear from them.
After several attempts to follow-up, including using advice from Oren Klaff, you give up. And then it happens.
One afternoon, 3 months later, out of the clear blue sky, you get a call from the business.
They are calling because the problem they are experiencing, predictably has worsened, and now they want to know how soon you can start for them. No Problem. But they still want you to complete the project by the date you had originally proposed.
Seriously? Even when you look at the proposal, it now seems as foreign to you as the Magna Carta.
Taking on the pressure of meeting deadlines under these circumstances are often only attempted because of the situation discussed in #7 below.
5. Acknowledge your feelings for the client
Do you like working for all you clients equally?
Don’t lie to me now. You have some clients you like working for better than others. I do...we all do. It’s part of being human. It’s also part of the work we do and how we meet deadlines.
When I was a child, my Mom used to make cushion covers to supplement her income. What always stuck with me was how she used to complain about certain customers.
I remember her complaints because she claimed that how fast she was able to make a set of cushions was dependent on how miserable or accommodating the customer was.
Lord knows that many years later, my ease in meeting deadlines or timelines swings around on similar factors as my mother’s. The only difference is that I know it comes from me and not the client.
When you like working for a client, it seems that precious little can go wrong when you’re working on their projects. Even if something goes wrong, fixing it is also a breeze.
However far down I dig into my professional trunk, when I have to work for a difficult client, my human nature wins. And so, I begin the process of working for that client with a healthy dose of procrastination (sigh!) As you can imagine, that make achieving any timeline, all the more difficult.
6. Allow for learning needs
About two years ago, I was the Capacity Building Consultant on an IDB-sponsored project for a small organisation in the agriculture sector.
I have a strong background in the not-for-profit sector, especially in the capacity building niche, hence my selection.
On the other hand, apart from planting some pawpaw seeds and having the giant African snails eat the plants as soon as they were 1.7 inches tall, my background in agriculture was almost non-existent.
In designing a work plan for this project, I factored in the time I would need to learn the various aspects of the agriculture industry, relevant to the project. This was to help me meet the deadlines without pressure and...you just don't mess with IDB.
When you have not done a particular type of work before, or if you have not worked in a certain sector, meeting deadlines on a project will be challenging. And you cannot ignore this when you’re setting those deadlines.
7. Accept that your bank balance matters to you meeting your deadlines
I don’t know about you, but I work for money. Yes...I donate my services to deserving organisations, but I can only do this because I get paid for other services I deliver.
Now, even with my best effort, there are times when my available cash dips below my ideal balance.
In times like these, even though I have to call up my incredible will power and massive amounts of energy, I meet any timelines I set. I don't negotiate with myself.
On the other hand, when I have a healthy balance on my checkbook, I feel I can buy just a little, little bit of procrastination.
You know what I’m talking about...don't you?
So accept that at some level, how badly you need the money will impact how well you meet your deadline. And don't be afraid to factor this in when you make a work plan for a project.
How to push the reset button on meeting deadlines...
Now that you know 7 ways in which you get in your own way of setting deadlines, you will want to rethink how you set and meet them.
So I want to make that easy for you.
The next time you have to set a deadline, forget all you know about project management and ask yourself the following questions:
1. Am I setting a deadline or a timeline?
2. How can I get the energy I will need?
3. What is happening in my life that could prevent me from meeting my deadline?
4. What do I have to re-learn about implementing this project
5. How can I prevent my feelings for this client getting in my way?
6. Have I done this type of work before?
7. How can I stop my bank balance from being a factor in this deadline?
When you answer these questions honestly, you will find that you can easily transform the frustration of meeting deadlines into the pleasure of achieving timelines.
To your meeting deadlines success...