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Are You Sabotaging Your Project Deadlines by Making This Common Mistake?

Are You Sabotaging Your Project Deadlines by Making This Common Mistake?
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    Sometimes the inevitable happens: No matter how hard you have worked on your project, you are not able to meet your deadline. When you analyze the reasons for this, you notice that there is an external dependency that caused the delay. Especially if you have tried to deliver this project for a customer, he/she may feel unappreciated because of the missed deadline.

    What makes this situation even more frustrating is the fact that you knew you did your part properly, but the delay was caused by an external factor. It’s no wonder that you are getting mad when this situation occurs. Yet, you have to make a reality check and step in the front of the mirror.

    Losing the Momentum

    When you work on your own and there are no interactions or dependencies on other people, things are pretty simple: you are just responsible to answer to yourself if you miss the deadline you set for finishing your project.

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    However, it’s a completely different ballgame when your project has dependencies on other people. Then it’s not just about you and if you manage to do your work on time – the contribution of others is also affecting the project and whether it is or not finished in time to meet the specific deadline.

    The major cause for frustration in this situation is that agreed contribution is not delivered on time. Or, if they get back to you, they are not respecting the original agreed-upon deadlines. This might have severe consequences to your project’s progress. In the worst case scenario your project might even halt completely, until the external contribution is done.

    Don’t Just Blame Others

    Ultimately these kinds of problems are caused by inefficient delegation and communication. And no matter how much you would like to blame others for slowing down the project, also you have to take a look at yourself at the mirror.

    Ask yourself: Did you delegate efficiently? Was the delegated work prioritized properly? Was your communication clear? When did you expect others to get back to you? Did you follow-up the progress?

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    So although others may be doing part of the work, ultimately it’s you who is responsible for being in charge and preventing potential delays as much as possible.

    Focus on Proper Delegation

    To understand your project dependencies better, sit down for a moment and go through all possible scenarios where an outsider’s help is needed: Is it graphic design? Is it proofreading? Is it setting up your WordPress site?

    Gather all the dependencies in a list and gain better understanding of what is needed by when, so that the project keeps rolling nicely along.

    Next, prioritize your delegations. Getting the delegated work done as early as it’s possible prevents most unexpected delays in your project.

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    When you start delegating, communication is also a key. Expressing clearly what you want and by when cuts down all the unnecessary assumptions and everyone is on the same line when it comes to assignments and deadlines.

    Also, try to work with reliable partners. Sometimes you may have to work with someone who you didn’t know before. However, if it’s possible, choose someone who you are already familiar with and who you trust. This reduces the potential situations where work is not done within agreed timeframe.

    Finally, have a backup plan for your work if everything is not going as expected. This way you can focus on doing something else, until the external contribution is done.

    Get Your Project Moving Without Delays

    Here are the steps to avoid delays in your project and delegate the workload properly. The goal here is to minimize lost time and delegate as effectively as possible.

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    1. Sit down. Make an appointment with yourself and make a list of all the dependencies (to other people) that exists within your project. This helps you to build the right marching order for your project tasks.
    2. Have a plan B. Figure out your plan B in case of delays in your project. For example, if the graphic designer working on your company logo becomes sick and is going to be on a sick leave for the next six months,  what will you do in that situation? It is of utmost important to plan ahead so that you are better prepared for unexpected setbacks.
    3. Choose reliable partners. Who have you worked with before? Is there a good and trusted web designer that could do the design work for you? Do you have a preferred person doing your proofreading? Try to work with those persons if possible. In fact, try to have a central location for your trusted external employees (for example: stored in Evernote). That way you can easily find the right person for the job. On the other hand, if you have to find someone new to work with (for e.g. through Elance, Fiverr or oDesk), try to look for user experiences and reviews first before choosing your professional.
    4. Prioritize dependency work. Once you are aware of the dependencies, it’s time to prioritize them on your project task list. If possible, try to get those delegated tasks out of the way as soon as it’s possible. If your input is required before the task can be delegated, make sure you take care of those tasks that can be found at the top of the task list.
    5. Communicate clearly. When assigning your work, give enough information at once for your hired worker. Nothing is more inefficient than giving too few details to guide those you work with, which leads to unnecessary e-mail correspondence. This in turn causes the delays, as the other person cannot continue with his/her work. Also, provide the necessary information in a clearly articulated manner. For example, if there is a deadline that should be met, communicate that clearly, so that the other person doesn’t have to make false assumptions on when the work should be returned.
    6. Do proper follow-ups. Delegation is so much more than just assigning the task – it’s also about follow-ups. Do you really know the latest status of your task? Is it really going to be done within time? To automate the following, use services like follow-up.cc or FollowupThen to manage the follow-ups the easy way. You can also use your calendar or your task list application (if you use one) to set the reminders.
    7. Know the escalation channels. Do you know what to do when you are not receiving the work back in a timely manner? Do you know who you escalate the issue to if the work is not done? For example, in Elance there are different levels for handling disputes. Try to figure out these channels in advance – just in case things get complicated.

    Conclusion

    As you can see, sometimes the delays of your work are related to other parties working on your project alongside you. Most of these delays can be prevented by doing some planning in advance, and prioritizing tasks and with clear articulation. Even though others may have caused the delays, it’s ultimately your job to minimize those delays as much as possible.

    It’s your turn now: How do you handle dependencies to other people working on your project? How do you make sure that the tasks others are doing are done in time?

    Share your comments and tips below.

    (Photo credit: Computer Sabotage with Grenade via Shutterstock)

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    More by this author

    Timo Kiander

    Productivity Author and Founder of Productive Superdad

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    Last Updated on July 21, 2021

    The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)

    The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)
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    No matter how well you set up your todo list and calendar, you aren’t going to get things done unless you have a reliable way of reminding yourself to actually do them.

    Anyone who’s spent an hour writing up the perfect grocery list only to realize at the store that they forgot to bring the list understands the importance of reminders.

    Reminders of some sort or another are what turn a collection of paper goods or web services into what David Allen calls a “trusted system.”[1]

    A lot of people resist getting better organized. No matter what kind of chaotic mess, their lives are on a day-to-day basis because they know themselves well enough to know that there’s after all that work they’ll probably forget to take their lists with them when it matters most.

    Fortunately, there are ways to make sure we remember to check our lists — and to remember to do the things we need to do, whether they’re on a list or not.

    In most cases, we need a lot of pushing at first, for example by making a reminder, but eventually we build up enough momentum that doing what needs doing becomes a habit — not an exception.

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    From Creating Reminders to Building Habits

    A habit is any act we engage in automatically without thinking about it.

    For example, when you brush your teeth, you don’t have to think about every single step from start to finish; once you stagger up to the sink, habit takes over (and, really, habit got you to the sink in the first place) and you find yourself putting toothpaste on your toothbrush, putting the toothbrush in your mouth (and never your ear!), spitting, rinsing, and so on without any conscious effort at all.

    This is a good thing because if you’re anything like me, you’re not even capable of conscious thought when you’re brushing your teeth.

    The good news is you already have a whole set of productivity habits you’ve built up over the course of your life. The bad news is, a lot of them aren’t very good habits.

    That quick game Frogger to “loosen you up” before you get working, that always ends up being 6 hours of Frogger –– that’s a habit. And as you know, habits like that can be hard to break — which is one of the reasons why habits are so important in the first place.

    Once you’ve replaced an unproductive habit with a more productive one, the new habit will be just as hard to break as the old one was. Getting there, though, can be a chore!

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    The old saw about anything you do for 21 days becoming a habit has been pretty much discredited, but there is a kernel of truth there — anything you do long enough becomes an ingrained behavior, a habit. Some people pick up habits quickly, others over a longer time span, but eventually, the behaviors become automatic.

    Building productive habits, then, is a matter of repeating a desired behavior over a long enough period of time that you start doing it without thinking.

    But how do you remember to do that? And what about the things that don’t need to be habits — the one-off events, like taking your paycheck stubs to your mortgage banker or making a particular phone call?

    The trick to reminding yourself often enough for something to become a habit, or just that one time that you need to do something, is to interrupt yourself in some way in a way that triggers the desired behavior.

    The Wonderful Thing About Triggers — Reminders

    A trigger is anything that you put “in your way” to remind you to do something. The best triggers are related in some way to the behavior you want to produce.

    For instance, if you want to remember to take something to work that you wouldn’t normally take, you might place it in front of the door so you have to pick it up to get out of your house.

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    But anything that catches your attention and reminds you to do something can be a trigger. An alarm clock or kitchen timer is a perfect example — when the bell rings, you know to wake up or take the quiche out of the oven. (Hopefully you remember which trigger goes with which behavior!)

    If you want to instill a habit, the thing to do is to place a trigger in your path to remind you to do whatever it is you’re trying to make into a habit — and keep it there until you realize that you’ve already done the thing it’s supposed to remind you of.

    For instance, a post-it saying “count your calories” placed on the refrigerator door (or maybe on your favorite sugary snack itself)  can help you remember that you’re supposed to be cutting back — until one day you realize that you don’t need to be reminded anymore.

    These triggers all require a lot of forethought, though — you have to remember that you need to remember something in the first place.

    For a lot of tasks, the best reminder is one that’s completely automated — you set it up and then forget about it, trusting the trigger to pop up when you need it.

    How to Make a Reminder Works for You

    Computers and ubiquity of mobile Internet-connected devices make it possible to set up automatic triggers for just about anything.

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    Desktop software like Outlook will pop up reminders on your desktop screen, and most online services go an extra step and send reminders via email or SMS text message — just the thing to keep you on track. Sandy, for example, just does automatic reminders.

    Automated reminders can help you build habits — but it can also help you remember things that are too important to be trusted even to habit. Diabetics who need to take their insulin, HIV patients whose medication must be taken at an exact time in a precise order, phone calls that have to be made exactly on time, and other crucial events require triggers even when the habit is already in place.

    My advice is to set reminders for just about everything — have them sent to your mobile phone in some way (either through a built-in calendar or an online service that sends updates) so you never have to think about it — and never have to worry about forgetting.

    Your weekly review is a good time to enter new reminders for the coming weeks or months. I simply don’t want to think about what I’m supposed to be doing; I want to be reminded so I can think just about actually doing it.

    I tend to use my calendar for reminders, mostly, though I do like Sandy quite a bit.

    More on Building Habits

    Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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    Reference

    [1] Getting Things Done: Trusted System

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