3 Tips for Making Deadlines Your Friend
Photo by wili_hybrid.
Freelance Folder recently published a post on 5 Surefire Ways to Meet Deadlines for Freelancers and Web Workers by Abhijeet Mukherjee. If you haven’t read the post, it gives a nice breakdown of the topic. I’d like to take this opportunity to build on that post by looking not only at how we can increase our productivity in our day-to-day work, but also how we can change our mentality towards deadlines to create a healthier and more efficient workflow.
Abhijeet’s points and suggestions for meeting deadlines are:
1. Set expectations… with yourself.
2. Prioritize your work.
3. Keep track of dates and occasions.
4. Analyze your accomplishments every day.
5. Try to work only five days a week.
These points are great for keeping yourself on track and maintaining a proper balance in your work. From my experience I’ve found that it can also be helpful to turn the tables and put deadlines to work for you, rather than working against you.
It’s very natural for us to feel pressed by deadlines, but sometimes that can have a negative impact on the quality of work. By using deadlines to your advantage you can increase your productivity and keep a positive mental approach to your work.
I’d like to look at 3 factors that I’ve found to be very beneficial when dealing with deadlines. All of these things deal with the mentality of the subject, and taking a different approach to create a better end result.
1. Don’t Be Afraid of Deadlines
As freelancers, deadlines are a part of our lives almost everyday. While we may not be facing the crunch to get something done that particular day, we usually have it in the back of our mind and that deadline looms over our work just waiting for a chance to trip us up. Our natural reaction is to resist deadlines because they pressure us to perform at a certain level in a specific amount of time.
While deadlines do have the potential to cause stress and some sleepless nights, they can also be great for business and ultimately for our income. Without deadlines it would be easy to get distracted and turn a one week project into a two week project. In most cases, getting work done more efficiently means we’ll be able to accept more work, and in the end we’ll make more money. A deadline can be the primary motivating factor for keeping us on track and working as efficiently as possible.
If you’re able to take the mindset that a deadline is in your own best interest, you can free yourself from a lot of the pressure that you feel to meet that deadline. Rather than looking at the deadline as a ticking time bomb that will result in an angry client, try to look at it as a tool that will allow your business to reach its maximum profitability and productivity. If clients weren’t going to put a deadline on my work, I would put one on myself just to keep things moving.
Hopefully, taking this approach will help you to feel more relaxed in a way that will lead to your best work. Still you will not want to delay working on projects until the last minute. Part of respecting deadlines is working ahead whenever possible to allow for unexpected difficulties and giving yourself adequate time.
2. Set a Fake Deadline for Yourself
I have a few freelance writing jobs that require me to have an article finished by a particular day each week. When I first accepted these jobs I was a bit nervous about how these deadlines would affect my work. Would they lead to sub-par work because I couldn’t come up with a quality article?
I quickly learned that the best thing I can do to not allow these deadlines to negatively impact my work is to set my own deadline, a fake one, for a few days prior. For example, if I need an article by Tuesday, I expect myself to have it completed and ready to go by Sunday. With this approach I feel that the deadline actually has a positive effect on my work, because it keeps me moving forward without feeling that last-minute pressure. Occasionally I haven’t met my own deadline, but then I still have a cushion to easily meet the real deadline without killing myself to get it done.
This works really well for the re-occurring work that I do. In the situations mentioned above I know that I’ll need a few articles each week on a few different days. My fake deadlines help me to keep working throughout the week towards the goal. The jobs that I have without deadlines tend to drag on more than these jobs, and I’ve come to realize that the deadlines truly are beneficial to my output.
3. Give Deadlines to Your Clients
One of the biggest headaches for me as a web designer is waiting for clients to gather the information that I need to do my job. I’m sure other designers out there have had plenty of situations where it seems like all of the design and coding work is done, and you’re just waiting for some information from the client to complete an ‘About Us’ page, or something similar.
Sometimes clients are on top of things, and sometimes they aren’t. Have you ever had a client that expected you to get your work done by a particular date but they didn’t seem to be in any hurry when it comes to getting you the information that you needed to actually meet the deadline? In these situations it can be helpful to reverse the roles and give the client a deadline. While I wouldn’t use that terminology for setting a timeframe with clients, I do think it’s beneficial and effective to say to a client “in order for me to get this work done by the target deadline, I’ll need to get A, B, and C from you by X date.”
This can be done very tactfully, but it helps the client to understand that you can only do your part if they do theirs. The client may not always meet your deadline, but if that holds up the project, at least it’s evident to everyone involved that the delay isn’t due to your procrastination.
What’s Your Opinion?
How do you deal with deadlines? Do you find any of these approaches to be beneficial for you?