Last week had me thinking about any similarities between my role as a personal assistant and working from home as a freelance writer. The one that jumped out at me is the ability to effectively meet a deadline.
The scary thing is how many people are not good at getting their work in on time.
Here are some pointers to keep in mind when working with deadlines.
Make sure you know when the deadline is
If you start working on a project or piece of work, make sure you have an clear picture of when the work is due. Get an exact date and if necessary time. More than likely in any work situation, regardless of who you work for, you will be working on multiple deadlines, so it is important to keep track of what is due when.
If you are a Manager lucky enough to have a personal assistant by all means let your PA remind you when the work is due. However you should still have a clear picture of what date and time you need to work towards.
If your documents need to be reviewed by other people before they are finalized or if outside influences (such as postage or couriers for example) are involved, be sure to factor these considerations into your due date timeline.
Plan how you will hit your deadline
Do you plan using your calendar or do you have another system?
It doesn’t matter what you use as long as you do have a plan to get the work done. If the task is a particularly large or difficult project, something that you don’t want to do or something that you know you will procrastinate over, make sure you break the task down into smaller segments. Put these in your calendar or whatever planning tool you use and make sure you complete each stage leading up to the completed piece of work.
Accept deadlines are there for a reason
I must admit there have been times where I have wondered about the reasoning behind a particular deadline or I have looked at a page of A4 paper filled with deadlines and had no idea what was what. Sometimes we can feel like we are overwhelmed with deadlines and due dates.
If you know you will have trouble hitting a particular deadline, let the person know well in advance. Perhaps you could apply for an extension or someone else may be available to get the work done? Perhaps it may be a case of realigning your priorities?
Understand that other people are relying on you
Some people fail to think about what happens to their work once it leaves their hands. Other people will have deadlines to meet based on your work (complete with Managers who may not be happy with their performance if they do not meet them).
Getting your work done on time affects other people. If you are late for your deadline, it could have a domino effect and make everyone else late as well. In the end everyone ends up looking unprofessional and disorganized.
Ask for a deadline if one is not provided
Handing someone a piece of work or project and asking them to have it back to you ‘in a about a week’ is not satisfactory. Be specific. In some cases it may be appropriate to ask what time they need the documents.
In an office environment, particularly one where the office staff tend to work back late or work from home, you do not want work emailed to you at 8 pm if the deadline was 5 pm. Be clear if you need the work by close of business on a certain day.
Delegate or ask for help where you can
If you are in a position to ask for help, than by all means ask. As a Manager you may have a team of managers and staff to delegate the work to. Where possible give them sufficient time to get the work done.
To be clear, delegation does not mean leaving the work to the last minute and then dumping it on someone else, which leads us to the next point.
Don’t leave things to the last minute
Working as a personal assistant for many years, I have seen managers leave work to the last minutes a countless number of times.
What is really frustrating is seeing a Manager leave the task to the last minute (despite him knowing what the deadline is) and then watching them pass the work off at the last minute to one of their unsuspecting staff members. This could put the staff member in a stressful and uncomfortable situation.
No one likes having work dumped on them at the last minute because someone else could not be bothered to do their job.
Understand there are consequences if you don’t meet your deadline
Unfortunately as a PA I have seen people constantly miss their deadlines.
Repeatedly month after month they hand work in late or sometimes not at all. Depending what company you work for there may be little or no repercussions, which unfortunately promotes a culture of low performance. Generally companies however will not tolerate having work handed in late.
Be professional, respect others and take pride in doing your job well and getting your work in on time.