I'm just going to put it out there. I have a love/hate relationship with deadlines.
I love the way a deadline helps focus my mind. Having a deadline enables me to plan my time and forces me to prioritize tasks – so I deliver my work to a high standard and on time.
My freelance work requires me to juggle several contracts simultaneously. Without deadlines, it would be virtually impossible to keep track of what needs to be done, and by when. I'd find myself making promises to clients that I couldn’t keep. And that would be very bad for my professional reputation.
Deadlines keep me on track and they allow me to prioritize, plan and perform well. And I'm not alone; anecdotal evidence suggests that most people like to work to clear and unambiguous deadlines. It helps everyone know what's expected of them and smooths the way for more effective teamwork.
The problem is, deadlines need managing. And when multiple deadlines clash, managing them effectively can become problematic. We hear people say they're juggling priorities or spinning plates when they're working on multiple projects at the same time.
Oh yes, we can see them doing their best to keep all their plates spinning, desperately going from one to the other to prevent a plate from smashing to the ground.
In reality, their plates are projects or pieces of work each with a deadline. A plate dropped is a failed project, missed deadline, or damaged reputation. Working like this may be manageable, or even motivational, in the short term. But long term it can become overwhelming and anxiety inducing, and result in poorer performance.
Rather than providing focus, having too many deadlines and unrealistic time frames often leads to no time to focus on the right things at the right time. We have to spend our time multitasking, doing "just enough" on each project to get by while taking extra time to manage everyone's expectations. It exhausts me just to think about it!
Love them or hate them, deadlines are here to stay, so it makes sense to make them work for us, not against us. Here's what I've found works for me:
How does it make you feel when someone breaks their promises to you at work? Let down? Upset? Angry? Disappointed? Yep, I hear you!
Failing to keep promises to colleagues or to our boss can seriously damage our workplace relationships. But from time to time, despite our best intentions, we find ourselves unable to keep the promises we've made. This happened to me recently and I really hated letting someone down at the last minute.
With the best of intentions, I'd overcommitted myself – only to find I couldn't possibly deliver on everything I'd promised, when I was expected to. I had no choice but to communicate the issue in the best way I could and explain that I needed more time.
I felt terrible; I beat myself up about it for hours. And I didn't like not being able to deliver on my promise and judged myself harshly as a result. The thing is, the person I'd "let down" didn't feel let down at all. Because I was able to communicate the issue clearly and in a timely manner, and offer a solution, they were very understanding and no harm was done.
There are two very important lessons here for me about making and breaking promises at work:
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