How to Meet and Manage Project Deadlines
We all know managing deadlines is crucial to project success.
Without a deadline in place, there'd be no sense of urgency, direction, or motivation to get anything done. That’s why scheduling due dates for tasks and deliverables is a must in project management.
Unfortunately, plenty of projects suffer delays, missed deadlines, and failure to follow up. And when a project slows down or fails, it can mean thousands of dollars down the drain and precious hours spent for nothing.
If you're constantly missing your deadlines or rushing at the last minute, you can take the necessary steps to make important changes to your system.
The #1 reason you miss deadlines
Before we dive into the how, let’s take a moment to discuss why deadlines get missed in the first place. After all, understanding the driving force behind a delay can help you fight proactively against it.
It’s probably no surprise procrastination plays a big role in deadline management. But why do we procrastinate? Research shows we tend to avoid taking action if doing so brings up negative feelings, like anxiety, self-doubt, or boredom.
With this being said, the first step to meeting your deadlines is to treat them as sacred and crucial—to see them as a priority.
If procrastination creeps in, think about the positive impact you’ll have on the project. Consider everyone who’s accountable to the project, the time and effort you and your team have spent on the project, and the costs involved if you fail to meet them.
This mindset will help you stay focused and determined to work hard towards meeting all your project deadlines.
How to meet your project deadlines
Now let’s get a little more tactical and talk about ways to improve personal accountability.
How do you ensure you meet your own project deadlines every time? Here are 6 key steps you can implement into your existing workflow.
1. List out all your project tasks and deliverables.
Write them as action steps instead of vague and generic phrases for added motivation. If a task that’s assigned to you involves a few smaller steps, make a checklist so you can manage your time and track progress more clearly.
2. Set a reasonable deadline based on the complexity of work to be done.
You don't want to make the mistake of setting a deadline you can't meet. Analyze the complexity of the work, and estimate a reasonable amount of time needed to get it done.
A work breakdown structure can help you understand the scope of work better so you can estimate time and effort more accurately.
3. Add a reasonable cushion to every deadline.
A cushion is extra time given in case there are delays, problems, or issues that could in any way bring the project to a sudden halt.
You don’t want to overdo it, of course. But building even a small cushion into your time estimates makes it easier to meet your deadline, even if things don’t go as planned.
4. Work with an accountability partner.
Hitting a deadline is a whole lot easier when someone’s holding you to it. Whether it's your project lead, a client, or a stakeholder, these people will keep you accountable and motivate you to meet your deadlines on schedule.
5. Focus on just one task at a time.
Multitasking may seem like getting more done, but thinking about so many things at the same time can leave you feeling burned out and disorganized.
Focus your time, effort, and attention on just one task. Once you've completed it, ticking it off your list will motivate you to move to the next task.
6. Set reminders for each deadline.
A simple reminder can go a long way in helping you meet your deadline. In TeamGantt, you can choose to receive task notifications via email or our Slack integration and even sync project tasks to your favorite calendar app so nothing falls through the cracks.
Tips for managing multiple project deadlines in TeamGantt
If you’re leading a project, you've got more than your own deadlines to manage. Here are a few easy ways you can stay on top of deadlines in TeamGantt.
Use milestones to schedule and track important deadlines
Milestones make it easier to ensure your project stays on track. In TeamGantt, milestones show up as yellow diamonds on your gantt chart so they’re easy to spot in your plan.
Think of milestones as visual signposts you need to hit if you want to reach your final deadline on time. You can use milestones to spotlight important meetings, approvals, decisions, or deliverables.
Here's how one team structures their project to ensure major deadlines don't get missed.
Regularly review your project health report to get ahead of delays
Want to stay one step ahead of task delays? Set aside time to review your project health report each morning.
This simple yet powerful report gives you instant insight into project status by breaking down tasks that are on time, running behind, and overdue. That way you know exactly which tasks you need to check up on and can address issues before they throw the rest of your project off course.
Compare hourly vs. task progress to stay on top of deadlines
If you’re on TeamGantt’s Advanced plan with hourly estimates and time tracking, you can see how actual work is tracking against your projections. This makes it easy to keep a close eye on tasks that are taking longer than expected.
Simply look for the thin striped line that appears in the middle of each taskbar and pay attention to its color and length.
Here are the red flags to watch out for:
- The striped line is red: This task (or group) is over-budget. More hours have been tracked than were originally estimated for the task.
- The striped line is longer than the progress indicated for a task: This task (or group) is at risk for overage because it’s blowing through budgeted hours faster than actual progress being made.
Request a progress update on lagging tasks
Need to know where someone stands on a task that’s coming due? TeamGantt makes it easy to do a quick status check and remind team members to update their progress.
Simply click Request a progress update in the top right corner of the task discussion tab.
The person assigned to the task will receive an email asking them to update their progress with a link that takes them directly to the task.
How to handle deadlines that get missed
There are things beyond your control that may hinder you or your team from meeting project deadlines. When this happens, the best thing any professional should do is accept the mistake and learn from the experience.
Communicate the issue to your stakeholders, and offer solutions for how to make up for the lost time. Coming to the table with a plan for moving forward is a good faith effort that shows leaders and stakeholders you genuinely care about the project’s success.
Good planning makes deadline management a breeze
Want to be a better planner so you can deliver projects on time more easily? Check out our Plan Up education hub for free resources to help you create solid project plans and get buy-in from your team and stakeholders.