Deadlines are an important part of our work life and studies, whether it’s meeting customer expectations on a project, hitting sales targets or swotting up for an exam.  How can you ensure you meet and beat deadlines every time?

1. Set or Negotiate Achievable Deadlines


Is it realistic that you’ll write your new novel in two weeks?  Or run a marathon later this month with having never run more than 2 miles before?  Or do a full analysis of every competitor for next week’s board meeting?  Probably not.

You can make progress in those time scales, however.  Chapter 1 in two weeks?  Run 4 miles later this month?  Full analysis on 1 or 2 competitors this week, with another the week after?  Definitely.

That’s fine if you’re in control of the deadline, but what if the deadline comes from your manager?  As a manager I can tell you that I would be 100 times happier if you highlight any issues now than when you failed to meet the deadline; the chances are your manager has had to commit this to their superiors too.

Time, Cost, Quality – pick 2!
  • Extend time
    I can review one competitor per week without impacting my other work, is this ok?
  • Increase cost
    I can work with Mary to make sure the review is done if we delay our existing project to the week after?
  • Reduce quality
    I can do a summary of every competitor this week, and add details in the future. Would this be sufficient for the meeting?

If you accept the deadline without challenge, your manager will believe that you can achieve it.  Managing expectations is crucial.

2. Create Milestones


As I said in Beat (Octopus) Blue Monday By Setting Goals breaking down large tasks into smaller ones makes meeting them much more achievable.  Writing a book could be a daunting prospect, writing a chapter less so.

Setting smaller regular milestones also helps you to review progress.  Let’s say you plan to write a 12 chapter book in a year.  If chapter one takes five weeks you’re not going to make it.  But you’ll know this in month two and you have 10 months left to adjust your plans rather than rushing to an unachievable goal.

3. Review Your Work


One of the key tenants of Agile/SCRUM software development is to hold regular retrospective meetings.  The team set aside an hour to review the last ‘sprint’ (usually 2-4 weeks) work.  Often these questions are used as a starting point for the conversation:

  • What should we continue doing? What is working well?
  • What should we start doing? How can we improve?
  • What should we stop doing? What is preventing us from achieving our goal?

These can be very powerful questions to help you think about how to be more efficient.  Even the very best teams can become better by thinking about and discussing their practices and constantly reviewing them.


Deadlines are a necessary part of business.  Meet and beat deadlines every time by following these 3 steps:

  1. Set or negotiate achievable deadlines
  2. Create milestones
  3. Review your work

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