Recently I was in a conversation about meeting deadlines.
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!
Oh! I forgot you're the self-development expert! You know something we don’t know?! We would love to hear!
Sarcasm aside, what I know, are some secrets that most small business owners either don’t know or choose to ignore, when they set deadlines.
Let’s talk about 7 of them.
How you define “deadlines” matters
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.”
Because of this definition, I no longer set deadlines. I realise, one way or the other, deadlines will kill you. And it does feel that way sometimes.
So now, one of my secrets to meeting deadlines is to think of them as timelines. A timeline feels like something I can achieve while saving my own live.
Yes...it’s all in the mind but isn’t that where everything starts?
Your energy level is a factor in meeting deadlines
If 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 deadlines 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.” Your energy levels are consistently high.
In this scenario, meeting deadlines is a breeze. The energy is already there so all you need is a shift in priorities.
You cannot ignore what else is going on in your life
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 that you are 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 is enough to kill my feelings for working, far less for meeting deadlines.
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, 5 months later, out of the clear blue sky, you get a call from the business.
The situation is, the problem that led to their wanting a solution has worsened and now they want to know how soon you start, but you have to finish in the timeline you had first proposed.
Seriously? When you look at the proposal it now seems as foreign to you as the Magna Carta.
Meeting deadlines under these circumstances are often only attempted because of the circumstances discussed in #7.
Do you like working for the client?
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 meeting 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 meeting any deadlines concerning that client with a healthy dose of procrastination (sigh!)
How many times you’ve done this particular work before
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.
Apart from planting some pawpaw seeds and having the giant African snails eat the plants as soon as they were 1.7 inches long, my background in agriculture was minimal.
Meeting deadlines on this project was challenging because the sector was new to me and you 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 before, meeting deadlines on a project will be challenging. And you cannot ignore this when you’re setting those deadlines.
The balance in your checking account can help or hinder your meeting 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 work for money.
In addition, even with my best effort, there are times when my available cash dips below my ideal balance.
In times like these, I summon incredible will power, massive amounts of energy and unparallel professionalism and I use these to meet every timeline I set.
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?
Now it's over to you...
Now you know why meeting deadlines or as I like to call them, timelines, is something I score high on.
Yes I have studied a lot of the academic information surrounding procrastination but I have always believed there is another side to procrastination.
So the next time you have to set deadlines, throw the system you now use through the window and invoke the following checklist.
- Am I setting a deadline or a timeline?
- How can I get the energy I will need?
- What is happening in my life that could prevent me from meeting my deadline?
- What do I have to re-learn about implementing this project
- How can I prevent my feelings for this client getting in my way?
- Have I done this type of work before?
- How can I stop my bank balance being a factor in this deadline?
When you honestly answer these questions you can transform meeting deadlines into achieving timelines.
To your meeting deadlines success...