Deadlines are, in essence, goals that you have set for your business for the sake of getting tasks completed in an efficient manner. At times, particularly when clients and external business partners are involved, they can amount to promises, but in many cases, it is the fact that business was taken care of in a reasonable amount of time rather than the exact time of completion that is more important. Nonetheless, without use of deadlines, your business could easily become lax in its efforts, displease customers, and fall behind the competition.
Below, we look at 4 steps involved in setting achievable deadlines that will help your business grow and succeed:
- Estimate how long the task will take: In determining the length of time necessary to complete a task, and thus, when to set your deadline, it is important to be realistic. For many, there is a tendency to underestimate how long major projects will take and to overestimate the time needed for small ones. It is advisable to give yourself a buffer to avoid having to move the deadline out due to unforeseen delays since a missed deadline is particularly depressing. Yet, you still should have no more than a few extra days allotted for even a major project. Also account for attention that must be given to other tasks and either allow sufficient time to do both projects simultaneously or put one thing or the other on hold until the more pressing project is completed.
2. Formulate a specific time table: First, the deadline itself should be specific: not “the end of next week” but “Friday at 5pm,” for example. Next, you need to break the task down into smaller tasks and set a deadline for each of these smaller goals. This will create “milestones” that keep the project on track to meet deadline and also serve to motivate workers as they see they are getting closer to achieving the end-goal. Also provide for incentives that encourage your employees to reach each milestone by the designated time.
3. Account for potential problems: Sit down and think of all the problems that could crop up and slow things down. Then set up “contingency plans” to use should any of these issues arise. These contingency plans should outline how you will manage to still meet the deadline in spite of these difficulties.
4. Delegate out each task: Having a goal and steps to accomplish it by the deadline will do little good unless specific employees are assigned to handle each step along the way. Take pains to assign the most qualified person to each task, and don’t overburden anyone. If, however, an employee ends up needing extra time, manpower, or resources, let them know they can ask for whatever they need.
Deadlines help you organize your time, set priorities, and get you motivated when you might not otherwise feel up to the task. Knowing how to set appropriate deadlines and how to meet them will keep your staff motivated and help your business succeed.