How to Set a Deadline

posted in: Time Management 0

Image of a woman holding a smartphone at a laptop and the phrase, How to Set a DeadlineYou need to set a deadline for an upcoming project or assignment.

The only thing is, you’re feeling a bit iffy about the whole process.

Just how do you get started?

Do you just pick a date out of the air, or close your eyes and place your finger randomly on a date on a wall calendar?

How do you know if you’ve even selected a worthwhile date?

In this post, I offer a few tips to help you set a deadline for a project.

Review your current project or assignment.

What do you need to set a deadline for? Is it a work, school, or perhaps a personal or home-based project? You may find it helpful to give your project a specific name so you can focus on it better, such as “Build backyard bird house.”

Name in hand, don’t be afraid to list out all the different tasks you’ll have to take care of to complete the project. At this point in time, you don’t have to worry about the order of the tasks involved, just write them down so you can refer to them with ease. Once you have everything written down, you can organize everything to your heart’s desire.

In the example above, after writing down your tasks, you might organize them as follows:

  • Research bird house templates online
  • Select bird house template to use
  • Prepare material shopping list
  • Go shopping for tools, wood, glue, and paint
  • Prepare wood for cutting
  • Cut wood into shapes
  • Assemble bird house
  • Let glue set
  • Paint bird house
  • Let bird house dry

Evaluate other external factors.

No project or assignment is an island. Wherever, and whenever you work, you’ll be influenced by external factors such as the weather, the availability of people, materials, information, and so on, and so forth. As you review your assignment or project, don’t forget to factor in the time it will take to deal with these external factors.

In our example above, you might have to find out the hours of the lumberyard or hobby store, whether or not you’ll be able to work outdoors to paint the bird house, and so on. You can make note of these factors in your task list.

Give tasks individual deadlines.

Now, you’re going to give each of your tasks their own deadlines. The idea here is to break the project into smaller bits of work. Be sure to take into account the external factors you’ve determined above.

Don’t be afraid to give yourself more time than you think you may need. This is especially true if you are new to a particular project. As you haven’t had any prior experience, chances are, completing your work will take much more time than you think it will take.

In the example above, you might come up with the following:

  • Research bird house templates online – Saturday
  • Select bird house template to use – Sunday
  • Prepare material shopping list – Sunday
  • Go shopping for tools, wood, glue, and paint – Monday
  • Prepare wood for cutting – Tuesday
  • Cut wood into shapes – Wednesday
  • Assemble bird house – Thursday and Friday
  • Let glue set – Saturday and Sunday
  • Paint bird house – Monday
  • Let bird house dry – Tuesday and Wednesday

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Calculate a deadline.

Based on your work above,  all you have to do now is calculate the length of time between when you’ll start your project, and when you’ll finish it. Just add up the bits of time you’ve designated for each of the individual tasks.

In the bird house example, it looks like you’ll need at least a week and a half to complete your project. You can then set a specific date a week and a half in future as your deadline.

If you’re feeling a bit nervous about finishing everything on time, you can double, triple, or add-on any other buffer of time you’ll need to finish your work. If you were feeling a bit anxious about completing your bird house project in a week and a half, you could make the deadline three weeks, instead.

Don’t forget to do your work.

Once you’ve set your deadline, you can breathe a sigh of relief and kick up your heels. A date has been set! While you’ve gotten over one hump, you still have to get over another. Remember, you have to actually complete your work in order to make your deadline.

Review your task list, and put in a little bit of work each day. You’ll slowly, but surely, work towards your deadline.

How about you? Do you have trouble setting deadlines for yourself? What do you think throws you off? Is it the commitment that comes with setting a date? Or are you unsure as to whether you’ve actually given yourself enough time to do your work? Join in the conversation and leave a comment below!

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Rashelle Isip is a New York City-based professional organizer and productivity consultant who helps people get organized so they can stress less, have more fun, and be happier at home. Her work has been featured in Good Housekeeping, Fast Company, Cosmopolitan, The Washington Post, Business Insider, and The Atlantic. Get access to her free guide, 3 Smart Steps to Organizing Your Home, by clicking here.
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