10 Hacks For Never Missing a Single Deadline
DO YOU OFTEN find yourself stressfully sorting through the avalanche of papers on your desk or resisting to check your calendar or to-do list?
Is this you, in the midst of an approaching deadline?
If so, you’re most likely suffering from the “deadline-itis,” i.e. the inability to prioritize your time which creates a distinct blend of short attention span and irrational decision-making.
Urgency is the enemy of good work. You may meet your deadline, but you’ll complete the process so incredibly drained that you’ll have very little to no motivation to keep moving ahead with your next projects. That means the stress will mount once again until it evolves into another set of all-nighters.
It’s time for a change ?
Deadline is a scary word. No wonder the sound of it can make anyone physically nervous.
Researchers at Missouri Western State University found that time urgency causes more mistakes – and even makes you forget what you’re supposed to be doing. It’s a habit that creates the illusion that busyness itself is the goal by equating it with productivity – but in reality, it keeps you running in place.
“You lose sight of what you’re really trying to accomplish,” says Robert Trumble, a professor at Virginia Commonwealth University. “There’s a rush to judgment, in which the urgent is given priority over the important. These people are doers, but do they really know what they’re doing?”
There’s a huge paradox in the priority setting process: even if you feel completely out of control, you’re the only person who’s able to make changes to your time management. With some actionable prioritization hacks, you can achieve results with no pain.
1. Start Using the Importance and Urgency Matrix
The four-quadrant matrix first published in the book First Things First addresses the fact that tasks aren’t always deadline-oriented, they’re also guided by purpose and value.
The Importance and Urgency Matrix is a great method for combating multiple priorities. Simply figure out into which quadrant a task fits and complete your priorities in the following order:
Quadrant 1: Important and Urgent
- Must do now. Do not skip. Do not pass. These are items that need immediate attention.
Quadrant 2: Important but Not Urgent
- These items are a must-do – maybe not right now or even today, but you need to deal with that task at some point.
Quadrant 3: Not Important but Urgent
- In this category, you will find a lot of distractions like phone calls or emails.
Quadrant 4: Not Important and Not Urgent
- You can eliminate the tasks in this category – and no one will notice.
2. Just Don’t Do It – Delegate
Here’s a secret: you don’t need to finish everything on your own. It will take you hours to complete a task you’re not used to doing. Hours of time you could have spent on something you’re actually comfortable doing – and that a professional could have finished in a couple of minutes.
And the fact is, it may only cost you as little as five dollars to complete a task you have been procrastinating on, so why not give it a try? There are many websites such as Fiverr for you to find freelancers of all skills – developers, designers, programmers, writers, translators – you name it!
3. Do Your MITs
It’s very simple: your MIT (Most Important Task) is the task you most want or need to get done today. Leo Babauta, the author of Zen Habits, is a huge advocate of MITs. He’s tweaked it so that he has three MITs: “Do I get a lot more done than three things? Of course. But the idea is that no matter what else I do today, these are the things I want to be sure of doing.”
Essentially, it’s just a process of choosing a few tasks to get done per day. Tweak it to suit your routine. Want to have 5 MITs a day – or pick just one? Go for it!
Or make it a game: each task could support a different cause – 1 task A supports your overall business goal, 1 task B supports your monthly goal, and task C1 your daily goal. By following a routine set by yourself, the options are limitless.
4. Use Task Management Software
Sometimes, a simple to-do list or post-it note just doesn’t cut it. High-performing companies know that, with over 80% of them using project management software.
Everything about your business, one click away
There are hundreds if not thousands of tools promising to improve your daily routine. Do your research and find a solution with features that are actually going to upgrade the way you tackle your task list. It may be a daunting challenge, but it could save you hours of work in the future.
Here’s a little something to get you started:
- 6 PM Software Features That will Skyrocket Your Project Performance
- 41 Best Project Management Software and Tools
5. Find Your 20% Task
The Pareto principle states that you get 80% of your results from 20% of your work. Start by working out which 20% of your tasks bring in the majority of results is the hard part. Once you figure it out, you can apply this knowledge to your prioritization framework to your work – make finishing the 20% high-priority tasks your Top priority and the benchmark for evaluating your future work’s ROI.
Try this exercise: Be ruthless, and ask yourself which tasks would you work on today if you only had time for three tasks. Then, cut it down to two. And finally, just one – the one task you absolutely have to do. Don’t take into account the time you would spend on doing this task or other factors you usually consider when deciding what to do next. Just think of the outcome value and benefits.
Filtering out your non-productive tasks is tough, but it’s a good way to realize which task provides the biggest value.
6. Implement the Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs
The Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs was first proposed by Abraham Maslow already in 1943. The hierarchy describes the pattern that human motivations generally move through.
This can easily be adjusted to prioritize your business tasks. Figure out what are your motivation layers and write them down if needed. Then, whenever you’re stuck with another prioritization issue, you can visualize it according to Maslow.
What is the qualification for making it to the first layer? Usually, the business’ main purpose is to make money. If a particular task prevents your company from making money, it’s probably a high-priority task.
The other layers could be anything from business security to customer experience to team well-being. It’s a one-time challenge figuring out what your business motivators are, but it will pay off quickly if you start implementing the tactic on a daily basis.
7. Use the ABCDE Method
If you’ve ever been stuck with deciding which tasks to tackle first, you’ve probably realized that different tasks can have the same priority level. This is where Brian Tracy’s ABCDE method steps in. Instead of randomly choosing equal-priority tasks as they come along, this method helps to prioritize with a few steps:
- Give every task a letter from A to E (A = highest priority)
- For every task that has an A, give it a number which dictates the order you’ll do it in
- Repeat until all tasks have letters and numbers
Sounds too simple? It is, but it works!
8. Eat the Frog
A survey found that on average, a person loses over 55 days per year procrastinating, wasting around 218 minutes every day doing unimportant things.
There just isn’t enough time for everything on our to-do list – and there never will be. Successful time managers learn to focus on the most important tasks and make sure they get them done.
There’s an old saying that if the first thing you do each morning is to eat a live frog, you’ll have the satisfaction of knowing that it’s probably the worst thing you’ll do all day.
The book Eat That Frog By Brian Tracy provides you with effective methods for conquering procrastination and accomplishing more, such as tackling the biggest tasks first and getting them out of the way. By doing that you don’t let the pressure and anxiety build up and prevent you from getting anything done.
9. Use Browser Extensions
When you’re struggling to get anything done, it will drag you deeper into the procrastination zone, and it sure feels hopeless down there. Before your get on that path again, try out these productivity-enhancing browser extensions.
Look at your MITs and pick one. Now focus completely on finishing that task. Having a hard time doing that? Use Noisli to play background sounds like rainfall, fire crackling, or even thunderstorm – and use the calm atmosphere to increase your focus in the office or at a café. This extension has a built-in timer and text editor which will efficiently help you concentrate during your working sessions.
Getting distracted by websites that kill your productivity? With Strict Workflow, you can set a 25-minute work timer for efficient work, and by clicking on a 5-minute break timer, you can use your earned pause for relaxing. The extension comes with pre-configuration, blocking all the popular websites. So no more checking Facebook when you should be working.
Do you feel the need to be reminded of that one MIT you chose? Momentum does just that by reminding your set goal every time you open a new browser tab.
View 9 more Browser Extensions for Higher Productivity.
10. Practice the Result Optimization Model
Here’s my personal favorite deadline management hack. Each approaching deadline proposes a unique set of challenges, and there are some excellent tactics for tackling them. But in most cases, I can count on the Result Optimization Model.
We tend to divide the time we have until the deadline into three parts:
- idea generation (G)
- idea consolidation (C)
- concept selection and implementation (I)
Usually, we spend one week on idea generation, the next one on consolidation, the third one implementation… and then ask for a deadline extension.
The Result Optimization Model suggests that instead of tackling a project in one go and idling when you can’t carry on, you should split your time into three equal parts – and go through the three stages (G, C, and I) three times. Simply put– plan the project, so that is ‘finished’ three times, improving the quality after every completion.
Not only does this method improve the output quality but it also makes you feel more fulfilled at the end of the project.
The Liberation of Prioritization ?
The fastest athletes in the world, from sprint legend Carl Lewis to Olympic gold medalist Allyson Felix, have said that during the races they relax more than their competitors. They concentrate on the form, not the finish line or the clock – therefore they are not as tense while sticking to their game plan and performing better.
That’s the ultimate deadline hack – being fully engaged at the moment. Learn to focus your attention on your current task and forget about all the distractions. Trust me, you’ll get a lot more work done this way.