Deadlines are important — stressful, but important. Without proper deadlines and an effective time management strategy, your entire workflow will shake uncontrollably until your clients decide to say goodbye to doing business with you. You don't want that to happen, nor do you want your reputation ruined by your lack of time management skills.
To help you transform deadlines into a positive aspect of your freelance business, here are a few tips to help you effectively manage them for success:
1. Take your deadlines seriously. This means giving each deadline top priority and committing yourself to beating every one of them, no matter what. Although it's understandable to feel relaxed with a lot of time on your hands, don't allow yourself to slack off to the point of procrastination.
2. Schedule reasonable deadlines. Another important step to managing deadlines is being reasonable about them. Scheduling a three-day project to be submitted overnight is just insane, even for the most skilled and experienced professional. Take into consideration every step needed to create a high-quality project, add an hour or two as a buffer for emergencies, and finalize an exact date and time for submission. That way, you won't have any reason (besides life-and-death scenarios) to miss the deadlines you've set for yourself.
3. Communicate your deadlines clearly. A lot of today's deadline mishaps are usually caused by a miscommunication and the misunderstanding of deadlines. Telling your client, "The final product will be submitted two to three weeks from now," will not save you from all the possible bumps on the road that could slow you down and hamper your progress.
4. Don't wait for tomorrow. Simply put, if you can finish either a part or the entire project today, why wait to do it tomorrow? Doing things early always alleviates stress and pressure, plus you get to do other projects or give yourself a day or two of rest before passing on the work to your clients for review.
5. Start. A blank sheet of paper, empty workspace where the creative process begins -- most will find the starting point very intimidating, like making that first jump from the springboard or the first step towards the podium. It works the same way with work under a strict deadline, and the trick is to pick up your pen and start. Start drawing, start typing, no matter how large or small the project may be.
He who begun has half done. Dare to be wise; begin. — Horace
6. Prioritize the important tasks. Look at your task list and see which task or project phase is the most important. Mark them as "high priority" and aim to get them done first. You'll realize that once the difficult and time-consuming tasks are done, you'll be able to finish off the easier and smaller tasks quickly.
7. End. A project's end is just as important as its beginning. Without a final decision to the creative process, you'll find yourself revising and revising your work till there's no time left to do so. Create a project roadmap or a plan of action to help you maintain focus and to tackle each phase of the project, one by one. You'll then be able to put all of the project pieces together successfully and on schedule.
When you think about it, managing deadlines simply boils down to knowing how to prioritize, focus, and push yourself to start. What good will organizers, email notifications, and post-its do when you're prone to putting things off till the last minute? Begin and end each project wonderfully by setting reasonable deadlines, doing your best to produce quality work, and beating each and every one of those deadlines on time.
Let's hear from you now. What are the most common problems to managing and meeting your deadlines? What internal or external factors are causing these problems?