I have written a lot of examinations in my lifetime and most often than not I have always wished I had more time to give all the answers that I know. In those examinations, I realized that I am not only being examined to evaluate what I know, but more importantly, to estimate my ability to solve problems within a limited time.
As I grew to become an entrepreneur, I came to terms with the fact that I might not have the time to deliver my projects when I feel like – I always have deadlines to deal with. Your ability to manage deadlines is key to meeting client expectations and consequently ensures client satisfaction, which is vital to the growth of your entrepreneurial endeavour.
Sadly, missing client’s deadlines has become so commonplace today that it is now normal to expect disappointment from entrepreneurs. Everyone now expects deadlines not to be met and so expectations from entrepreneurs are now lowered. As common as this may be, it is unprofessional and hence not good for any business.
Entrepreneurs who have made sustainable progress in their endeavours take deadlines seriously. Granted, though missing deadlines might not necessarily crumble your business (in the short term), meeting your deadlines give you an air of professionalism, dedication and an edge over your competitors.
To this end, I will be laying out a few strategies you can adopt as an entrepreneur in order to be able to meet your deadlines and consequently set your business on an upward stride.
1. Understand the project
The anticipated returns of a project should not be a deciding factor in accepting a project. The project deadline should be of utmost importance to you. It will help you know if you can deliver within the deadline given for the project.
Before you even accept any type of project deadline, be sure you understand the client’s expectations. Many times, clients don’t always know what information you might need or what variables in the project could change the scope entirely.
Therefore, it is up to you to figure out those details. Ask questions targeted at getting to the specifics, and do not move on until you are confident that you know what you are getting into.
2. Learn to fragment
Almost all entrepreneurs struggle with this. They tend to only focus upon the deadline at first and not the task. A good practice is to look at the project holistically from the day it was given to know how much time you have to deliver the project.
It is advised that you fragment the project and set mini deadlines for each fragment, the size of the project notwithstanding. So the best time to start a project, if you must meet the project deadline, is the day you were given the project.
Every time you go back to your project fragments, take a look at the deliverables you have outlined leading up to each mini deadline. This will enable you to find out if you need to speed up or maintain the same pace.
3. Plan ahead
Meeting project deadlines can be analogous to making travel plans. You do not need to wait till the scheduled travel date to begin making yours.
Say, for instance, that you need to fly across the country to meet a client in three weeks. If you wait until the last minute to make your travel plans, you might end up missing the meeting, arriving at the venue unprepared, spending more money unnecessarily or any combination of the three.
Due to my very busy schedule, I tend to fall into that aspect. I now normally purchase my flight tickets in advance using Justfly. Whenever I don’t do that on time, I might end up not being prepared for the presentation I’m to present.
Booking on time means that if there are issues that might affect your journey, you will likely be able to detect and fix it on time. Planning ahead entails that you work towards not just meeting the deadline, but beating the deadline.
Another good analogy is the game of chess. Good chess players plan five to ten moves ahead while bad chess players only concentrate on the current move. If you always focus upon events several days down the road, you will be better equipped to handle any potential crisis that may pop up. It also allows you to set aside a day or two before the final deadline to polish your project and add final touches. Do not just focus on today; focus on the whole timeline.
4. Set Priorities
One way to always meets deadlines is to know what to focus upon at every point in time of the project. So, if you are consistently struggling to meet your deadlines, then you need to try switching up the order in which you work on things each day. It is common to tackle the easiest tasks first and save the difficult ones for later, which of course means saving the difficult tasks for tomorrow.
Realistically speaking, however, “tomorrow” probably means the day after that. Before you know it, your whole timeline has gone down the drain. Deadlines force you to focus on the priorities first. When you are under obligation to deliver within a given time interval, that is the perfect time to prioritise effectively.
Evaluate the things you need to neglect, who you need help from, what you might need to let go off so you can meet the deadline stress-free and on time. Your priority should be to start with the very complicated part of the project and work your way down to the least complex aspect.
5. Organize Yourself
There is, as a matter of great importance, a need for you to be organized as an entrepreneur if you must be able to meet deadlines. In this age of smartphones, tablets and cloud computing, you have no reason not to be organized enough to meet deadlines.
Simply entering events in your Cloud Calendar will synchronize it across all your mobile devices so you can keep aware of all current deadlines. File documents neatly in your computer or cloud storage. People often waste valuable time finding digital bits and pieces of their projects if they are not organized. Good self-discipline is reflected in good organizational skills.