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A deadlines a deadline is a deadline
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In business, one of the most important things to remember and master is the ability to meet a deadline. Deadlines get tossed about in every profession and rarely are taken that serious, but are not something to take lightly. - photo by Jeremy Kartchner
In business, one of the most important things to remember and master is the ability to meet a deadline. Deadlines get tossed about in every profession and rarely are taken that serious, but are not something to take lightly. Fortunately for me, I learned the value of meeting a deadline at a young age.

When I was in college I took a class on news reporting and the professor would give very specific deadlines for our assignments. She was a former newspaper photographer and took deadlines very seriously. Ill never forget the first day of class she told us that if we miss a deadline we might as well not even show up for class that day because if were late, even by a second we wouldnt get credit for the assignment.

It didnt take long before this rule was put to the test and proven by the professor. One day, shortly after the start of term, one of my classmates was a few minutes late. Our professor would stand at the door with a watch in hand keeping track of the official time. The deadline was set by that watch and she kept time using that watch for all assignments. True to her word, she did not accept the assignment. From that point on we knew she meant business and we all set our own watches by that watch.

One day I woke up and my wife told me that it had snowed overnight and that traffic was going to be slow due to the unexpected snow. I peered out the window and was shocked at the sheer amount of snow. The first thought that crossed my mind was my deadline for my news reporting class. I had worked hard to complete the assignment and was suddenly worried that I wasnt going to make it on time and get credit for the assignment and all the hard work.

I left immediately. The trip to campus took longer than I had anticipated and as I pulled in the parking lot I was the first car to approach the empty parking lot covered in a fresh blanket of about 15 inches of snow. I pulled into the parking lot and was immediately stuck due to the deep snow. I had about five minutes until my deadline so I abandoned my car and made a mad dash for the classroom.

I ran as hard and fast as I could and finally reached my classroom. As I entered I caught a glimpse of myself in the glass door and realized I was covered in a layer of snow. As I walked in, sure enough, my professor was standing there watching her watch. I handed her my assignment and she responded with, Just in time. Youre the first and only student here and the only one that truly understands a deadline. She proceeded to inform me that as of that moment the deadline had passed and nobody else would be getting credit for that days assignment.

I felt a huge sense of relief and explained to her how I made it. She laughed and informed me that she didnt care about the how, only that I made my deadline. She then dismissed me to go free my car.

As I left to return to the parking lot to try to free my car I remember thinking that I really did understand what it means to meet a deadline. With this experience in mind, Ive listed below four tips to consider to ensure that you successfully meet your deadlines.

  • Prioritize: Some projects or assignments are more important that others. When you have more than one project youre working on you should know which ones are more important than others. If you dont, ask your boss or supervisor. In the movie "The Shawshank Redemption," one of the characters is stealing a TV. Hes got the TV rested on his shoulder when the police arrive and one of the officers points his gun at him and yells, Freeze! Put your hands in the air. The thief stands there and the cop asks him why he didnt do what he was asked to do, and he responds, Well which one is it? Freeze or put my hands in the air?
  • Communicate: If a boss or supervisor comes and gives you an assignment, dont be afraid to tell him or her what other projects youre currently working on. If they give you a new assignment with an aggressive deadline and youre already working under another tight deadline with this boss, remind them of that fact. Provide them with a recommendation and strategy for how youll accomplish both but emphasis that it may require a delay in one of the deadlines. By talking to them and communicating these issues they can agree to your strategy or provide other input. Either way, theyll be aware and youll have their buy-off.
  • Set milestones: I believe that milestones play a critical role in accomplishing and meeting any deadline. In the first bullet point I described my sons book report assignments. When my son tells us about these assignments, my wife and I (usually more my wife than me) sit down with him and set goals and milestones for accomplishing the book report. We start by setting a date to have identified a book for him to read. The next step is setting a goal for reading the book followed by a target date for writing the report. If one of these milestones is not accomplished we can sit down and review why it wasnt met and identify what we need to do to still meet the deadline.
  • Plan for the unexpected: In the experience I shared above, the snowstorm was unexpected. That didnt matter to my professor though. I didnt necessarily plan for this and there was really no way that I could have, but I acted immediately upon learning of the snowstorm. I didnt waste time but rather made the most of the time I had. Ive learned since then to allow for and plan to give myself plenty of time so even if I get a flat tire I can still be on time and meet my deadline. At times my insistence on leaving early drives my wife crazy but Id rather be a little early and end up waiting in the car than be late and miss a deadline.
Deadlines are critical to the success of any business or project. An ability to meet a deadline will help you build long-lasting relationships of trust with the clients, customers and business partners and will help you accomplish your goals and objectives. By following these tips, youll have a significant leg up on understanding and meeting critical deadlines.