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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?


    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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    Timo Kiander

    Productivity Author and Founder of Productive Superdad

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    Last Updated on April 22, 2021

    How to Work Hard the Smart Way: 4 Daily Rituals to Follow

    How to Work Hard the Smart Way: 4 Daily Rituals to Follow

    Habits are what sets an average leader apart from a great leader. We can argue that talent is the biggest factor; we may debate how the amount of charisma sets the two apart. Yet, if you were to show me what you believed to be a great leader, I can show you the habits that made her/him great. Great leaders have great habits and know how to work hard the smart way.

    Developing Great Habits Is Hard Work

    In my early college days, I had spent a lot of time learning how to play the trumpet. Playing the trumpet took time and discipline. I had some natural talent, but not enough to hide my lack of ability. My trumpet teacher was a man of discipline, and there was no doubt he had talent. What stood to me was his work ethic. He had to be one of the hardest working mentors that I had the privilege of working with.

    One afternoon, I was in his office getting ready for my weekly trumpet lesson. As I was preparing, my eyes scanned the room and saw that there were quotes all over his office. My eyes rested on one quote that forever changed my thinking about my playing. It was a quote from my high school basketball coach Tim Notke that would become popular through professional athletes Kevin Durant and Tim Tebow:

    “Hard work beats talent when talent fails to work hard.”

    Hard work trumps talent. The key to success is not found in your talent or ability. Talent and ability are necessary, but they are not the primary factors. They are supporting roles in the story you are writing.

    Ultimately, hard work is the key to your success. A good work ethic creates the momentum that propels you forward towards your goals.

    Motivation Is Not the Answer

    How many times have you seen someone go to a conference, get inspired, and then come home and do nothing?

    If motivation were the answer, the world would have transformed hundreds of times over. Yet, when we look out our doors or turn on the news, we do not see a utopian society.

    We have thousands of people who become inspired but lack the work ethic to apply anything they have learned. Time and time again frustration creeps in. We are so motivated and inspired by what we see but fail to put in place the things that would change our lives.

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    Frustration happens when the gap between what you expect to be true and what is true gets bigger. Motivation tends to create an expectation that is not rooted in reality. We want to take on the world but cannot get off Netflix long enough to do so.

    Motivation is not the answer, but working hard is. Good habits and routines that produce success are the byproducts of a strong work ethic. The habits and routines we create and follow are the foundation on which we build a winning life.

    How to Work Hard by Working Smarter

    Here are 4 routines that will help you learn how to work hard and achieve your short term and long term goals.

    1. Define What a Win Looks Like

    In football, a player that crosses into the end zone gain points. In soccer, a player kicks the ball into the net to score. Hockey, lacrosse, and basketball are all the same. The player takes the object and moves it into the designated area to gain points. The team with the most points wins the game.

    Why is it that we can define what a win looks like in sports, but we fail to do so in our leadership, our businesses, or our homes?

    Learning how to work hard without setting a target is futile. It is insanity to work hard without having a clear direction to place your energy. I would argue that defining a win is one of the most important routines that a leader can have. Defining a win separates superficial activity from meaningful activity.

    When I define a win, I know the goal line I have to cross[1]. Knowing where the goal line is informs me of the activity I have to engage in to cross it. Without a clear direction, I am spinning my wheels hoping that I will get to a destination I haven’t defined. It is like asking a GPS for directions but failing to input the destination.

    4 Steps to Define a Win
    • Know the outcome you desire.
    • Declare the outcome in specific, meaningful terms.
    • Write the outcome down.
    • Set your activity list to only do that which will complete your goals.

    Let me give you an example. 15 years ago, I started speaking professionally. As a young and naïve speaker, I thought winning meant that I had to get a reaction from the audience. If they cheered, smiled, or cried, I considered myself a winner. The problem was my lack of understanding of what a win looked like. As a seasoned speaker, my wins look different.

    As of today, when I speak, I am not looking for any emotional reactions from the audience. I win if, and only if, I clearly communicated my point so that anyone hearing the talk can take it and apply it to their lives that day. That is how I define a win when I speak now.

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    Create a habit of declaring a win. When you do, you will see your productivity soar and your encouragement increase. Pairing a hard work ethic with wise decisions creates victory. Stop being a mouse on a wheel that goes nowhere, and start being the captain of your fleet.

    2. Evaluate Your Activity

    Not all activity is equal. There are things you must do, things you need to do, and things we can either give away or delete. The greatest challenge of a leader is understanding the difference. Understanding what activity is busywork and what activity is mission work is pivotal.

    Not only do we need to learn how to evaluate our activity, but we must make this a core routine in our arsenal of success. Stop working so hard on everything and start learning how to work hard on the right things.

    Not every activity will move the needle forward for you. In fact, you were never meant to do everything yourself! Once we stop trying to be a martyr in our leadership, we can start looking at how to take things off our plates through delegation.

    Based on the Eisenhower box, there are 4 things that we look at when deciding on which activities are important:

    • Do now
    • Plan to do it later
    • Delegate to someone else
    • Delete it

    Powerful questions are the way you discover if the activity is right or not:

    • Does this activity move me towards or away from my goals?
    • Do I have to do this activity or can I give this activity away to someone else?
    • Does this activity have to be now right now or can it be scheduled for later dates?
    • Does this activity have to be done at all?

    Evaluating the type of activity you engage in should be a routine that you do daily. Learning how to work hard should create progress. Having a system of evaluation and a routine to do it will help.

    3. Prioritize Your Calendar

    If you were to show me your calendar, I could show you why you are not further along. When you lack the routine of placing things on your calendar, two things happen.

    First, what does not make it on your calendar does not get done.

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    It is a simple truth that is often overlooked. Your calendar contains the power to change your life. Yet, we don’t use our calendars to their fullest potential.

    “You will never change your life until you change something you do daily. The secret of your success is found in your daily routine.” -John C. Maxwell

    Also, if you don’t mark you activities on your calendar, you are leaving it open to other’s priorities.

    “The key is not to prioritize what’s on your schedule, but to schedule your priorities.” -Stephen Covey

    Having a routine in your life where you place things on your calendar is pivotal to your success. This is not a routine one should overlook.

    It’s time to take your leadership and business to the next level. It’s time to start putting your daily routines on your calendar, along with your priorities.

    4. Reflect on Your Day and Plan the Next

    We are all about the morning routine. Whatever that looks like for you, there should be a routine in the morning that sets you up for success.

    Hard work starts when your feet hit the ground in the morning. Creating the habit of winning starts with the first thing you accomplish that morning. If you win your morning, you will win your day.

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    Best Morning Routine to Prepare to Work Hard

      But how often have you heard people talk about an evening routine? Tomorrow is won the day before it happens. When you fail to plan your day, you may put your effort toward in the wrong things. Route replaces routine. Indecision replaces decisiveness. Losses replace wins. The discouragement will deflate your momentum and increases the chances of procrastination. That is why we set our schedule the night before.

      “Every battle is won or lost before it is ever fought.” -Sun Tzu

      Working hard doesn’t have to be hard work. It shouldn’t take much out of you learn how to work hard as long as you work smart. Having a time where you reflect on the day and set your priorities is the difference-maker.

      Use these questions to reflect on your day:

      • What went well?
      • What didn’t go well?
      • What can I change?
      • What do I need to start doing?
      • What do I need to stop doing?

      The Bottom Line

      Navigating through life is hard work. Yet, the work doesn’t have to be hard when you work smarter. When you create routines that support your mission, you create wins. Working hard, the smart way will tip the balance in our favor.

      Boxing legend Joe Frazier said:

      “Champions aren’t made in the ring; they are merely recognized there.”

      Champions put in the hard work behind the scenes. The world recognized them as a champion when they saw the results of the hard work. Right now, you are doing the work of creating a champion in yourself.

      That work is setting your routines in order because you now know that success flows from your daily routines. If you are not experiencing the success you desire, then it is time to change things up.

      More on Creating Healthy Routines

      Featured photo credit: Zan via unsplash.com

      Reference

      [1] The Balance Careers: Interview Question: “How Do You Define Success?”

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