I recently met with a new client who lamented about deadlines not working for her. Before diving in to deconstruct what was happening with her, I offered her this overview:
Part of the reason why deadlines don’t work for some folks is that they’re randomly assigned. It’s important to list out what steps need to happen, what resources need to be obtained, who needs to take what where – and by when. That information will help you create realistic deadlines.
And realistic deadlines are far easier to meet.
Hoo, boy, her eyes got big! “That’s an awful lot of thinking and planning. Wouldn’t it save time to just jump in and do it?”
“Has that approach worked with your other projects?” I asked gently.
“I’ll get to planning.”
Time Management Tip – Create a timeline
We started with what seemed like a pretty simple project – getting ready for a vacation. It’s similar to an exercise that I have attendees complete in my time management workshops.
When do you leave? July 25
What mode of transportation will you use? Plane
And that’s usually where the planning would stop with her. Then she’d end up running around like a chicken with her head cut off, trying to get everything ready for her vacation the night before the trip. This would cause her to start off her vacation completely exhausted.
This time, we’d map out a plan. I asked her questions, and she jotted down the answers, which became her timeline:
When will you buy the tickets?
What criteria will you look for when purchasing the tickets? (price, time, airline, etc.) Knowing this will cut back on search time.
Do you want to check your luggage or take carry-on only?
Based on that answer, how many outfits can you fit into your bags?
What activities will you participate in while you’re on the trip?
Based on that answer, what types of outfits and shoes will you pack?
By when do you want to be packed?
How much time will you need to pack your bags?
How much time will you need to purchase and/or locate these items you want to pack?
This line of questioning caused her to realize that while packing the items would take under two hours, deciding about and then obtaining the items would take about three weeks – factoring in confirming activities, searching for supplies, shipping purchases, going to work, taking care of house upkeep, and just plain ol’ living life that still needed to occur.
Through this exercise, she learned why she always did things last minute in a panicked frenzy. She was skipping the planning and the development of a timeline. What she originally labeled as a waste of time was actually an investment in better mental health and lower stress levels.
When will you sit down to plan the timeline for your next project?