How to Meet Deadlines – Turning Dreadlines Into Deadlines

There are few things at work that cause more anxiety than having to meet deadlines. We all want to produce good work, receive praise, and rise to meet the high standards our boss places on us. We’ve grown up with deadlines from the time we entered first grade, yet they continue to bring anxiety and dread. If you are struggling to meet deadlines at work, you aren’t alone. How do you meet deadlines at work?

Setting the timeline for a project is simple. Things start to turn crazy when unreasonable expectations creep in. Many of us have too much to do with too little time. Even worse, the scope of the project changes while the deadline remains the same. How do you take the dread and anxiety out of deadlines at work?

Deadlines help us achieve a shared goal and to keep complex multi-stage projects on track. Deadlines set expectations and make it clear what we are to deliver and when. When you approach deadlines correctly, they allow you to control your work and free you from confusion. There is nothing dreadful about that, right? So how do you deal with impossible deadlines at work?


If you are like so many other busy professionals who fear deadlines or find they are the primary source of your anxiety, try these tips on managing deadlines.

Meet deadlines by caring about them

The first and most crucial step to managing your fear of deadlines is to care about them. When you find reasons to care about the deadline, you will get serious about meeting them. It will motivate you to make them a priority. These questions can help you care about your work deadline.

Why is this project important?


Knowing “why” this project is needed acts as an inspiration to stay focused. If it brings in additional revenue, creates additional jobs, or provides a needed service to the community, care about that.

If you don’t meet the deadline, who would that impact?

When you miss a deadline, you transfer the burden to someone else. This is especially true if your coworker can’t start their piece until you’ve delivered yours. You don’t want to be “that person” who caused someone else to work late to meet their deadline because you didn’t meet yours.


Break the deadline down into bite-size pieces

As basic as this advice is, it works. Don’t try to boil the ocean, as one of my bosses used to say. Break the project or task into smaller steps. Give each step a time estimate. Make each step small enough to fit into an hour or less to keep it from intimidating you.

Focus on the first step to meet the deadline immediately

Before packing up your laptop and lunch containers, get that first step done. Completing your first step before the day is over is necessary to set yourself up for long-term success. Having completed a step will take some of the dread out of the deadline. Give it your full attention, and you will feel satisfied when it is over. Plus, marking an item off your to-do list removes the distraction of knowing you have a task to complete. The sooner you can complete a step the higher your chance of being able to meet the deadline with less anxiety.

Block off time for power hour – and – defend it fiercely

The surest way to focus on completing a step to meet your deadline is to block time on your calendar. Even more, protect that time the same way you would a doctor’s appointment. Tell Outlook that the time is out of the office, and in doing so, people will be less likely to schedule over it. Close your chat tools, email, and other distractions. One hour of uninterrupted time is all it takes to move you closer to meeting the deadline.


Flag problems and scope creep early to meet your deadlines

Don’t suffer in silence when problems or scope creep make it unreasonable to meet your deadlines. When you encounter a problem that puts meeting your deadline in jeopardy, make it known to your manager. If scope creep creeps in renegotiate the timeline. The sooner you raise the issue or concern of scope creep gives your manager more time to take action. Doing so keeps the deadline from becoming a dreadline.

Set fake and early deadlines for others

When your deadline is dependent on someone completing a task, give them a fake deadline. Telling them their contribution is needed well before they actually are needed will take the dread out of meeting your deadline. According to a study published by the Journal of Consumer Research, deadlines set in the near present encourage people to get started. In contrast, deadlines further into the future create an opportunity for procrastination.

Communicate and follow-up to meet your deadlines

To take the dread out of deadlines, you have to communicate, so everyone is aware of the deadline. Furthermore, you have to provide regular check-ins to see how they are progressing. Knowing where everyone is with meeting their deadline will reduce the anxiety of the unknown.


Ask for help at work to meet deadlines

Asking for help isn’t a weakness it is a strength. We want to confidently handle our workload, yet there are times when it isn’t feasible. From time to time, we will need help, and you must be unafraid to ask. It is better to ask for help to meet a deadline than to produce poor quality or miss a deadline. Delegating some of your daily tasks so you can focus on your deadline empowers others to take on more responsibility.

Demonstrating your ability to meet deadlines at work is essential to your performance and reputation. Turn dreadlines to deadlines by implementing these useful tips to meet your deadlines at work.

Last updated on April 15th, 2021 at 07:46 am

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Jason Cortel is currently the Director of Global Workforce Management for a leading technology company. He has been in customer service, marketing, and sales services for over 20 years. In addition, he has extensive experience in offshore and nearshore outsourcing. Jason is an avid Star Trek fan and is on a mission to change the universe by helping people develop professionally. He is driven to help managers and leaders lead their teams better. Jason is also a veteran in creating talent and office cultures.

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