Staying on schedule and meeting your deadlines is critical for departmental operation, customer satisfaction, and your bottom line. But what do teams do when there are competing deadlines or deadlines that seem impossible to meet?
Effective deadline management is the process of organizing, prioritizing and planning workloads within a limited timeframe that lets your team achieve its goals while keeping workloads and stress manageable.
In order to effectively complete work within scheduled deadlines, it’s important to understand first why your team may be missing its schedule completion dates. Common reasons include:
- Lack of clarity
- Lack of accountability
- Communication barriers
Here are 5 great ways to set realistic deadlines so your team can stay on track.
1. Ensure clear lines of communication
Communication and visibility are key to getting your team on-track and focused. Deadline work involves the judicious allocation of resources, and workers need to be able to allocate those resources based not only on deadline projects currently underway but also those coming down the pipeline. To do that, it is important that teams understand not only the projects currently being worked on but those that will arrive later in the day, tomorrow, next week, and even next month. Your team needs an effective way to communicate deadlines, and well-equipped work management platform should help with visibility, communication, and prioritization.
2. Align your team around common goals and priorities
You can’t make headway on projects if your team is heading in different directions. Getting everyone on the same page and aligned around common goals and tasks will spotlight goals and priorities and allow team leaders to effectively guide work toward on-time completion. Do this by laying out your vision, sharing it often, and connecting to it. Meet regularly, whether it is in person, online, or through communication tools, and explain why everyone is doing what they are doing.
3. Effectively prioritize competing or overlapping deadlines
Like it or not, there will come a time when multiple projects are due at the same time. You can prioritize these by assessing each project’s urgency and importance:
- Urgent and important: Projects with strict short-term deadlines and high value
- Urgent and less important: Projects with strict short-term deadlines and less value
- Important and less urgent: High-value projects with medium or long-term deadlines
- Less urgent and less important: Small-value projects with medium or long-term deadlines
You can prioritize multiple projects with identical deadlines by:
- Properly assessing how long each will take to complete
- Using a visual tool that offers custom workflows, dashboards, and individual task updates
- Adding individual task deadlines so each team member knows what to do and when it has to be done by
- Including a time buffer for when time overruns occur
4. Avoid procrastination
When deadlines are looming and stress and pressure are high, procrastination among team members may creep into projects, stalling completion and on-time delivery. Here are some tools to avoid procrastination:
- Identify why team members are procrastinating
- Come up with a plan
- Commit to deadlines
- Enlist peer pressure
- Set up a reward system for on-time delivery
- Minimize distractions
- Keep a to-do list
- Move deadlines up
5. Create standard operating procedures
Laying out standard operating procedures and advertising them for everyone to see will help to align teams around common objectives and spell out how those objectives are to be reached. These detailed written instructions will help you achieve performance uniformity and get work done in a consistent and efficient manner, and will keep deadlines in-check and manageable. You can create standards operating procedures by:
- Defining scope and purpose
- Identifying teams and players who should be included
- Testing and adjusting your proposals
- Distributing the procedures and soliciting input
- Getting feedback and making updates that incorporate that feedback
Project management tools are key to keeping your team on schedule and on focus, especially when deadlines are looming. With the right tool, like solutions offered by ProWorkflow, you get clear visibility, excellent communication tools, simple deadline management, and more. For more information, contact ProWorkflow today.