Time Management: Setting Deadlines

Time Management: Setting Deadlines

The number one bit of advice I can offer? Be REALISTIC!

I cannot stress enough how important it is to be realistic when setting deadlines for yourself and especially for clients. I have a new prospect and had to fight hard to resist the urge to tell them that I’ll have a proposal for them prepared within a few days. That’s normally what I would have done – then I’d end up spending the next two days up all night working on it – stressing over it – just to meet this short deadline that I gave myself. But why? What’s the point in the added headache and stress?

Don’t Sell Yourself Short

Build in enough time so that you can get the work done comfortably. Now, don’t tell them it’ll take two weeks to do something that would only take four days, for example. But if you know it will be tight to get something ready by the end of this week, for example, give yourself a couple extra days over the weekend, and say you’ll have it first thing Monday morning.

I was just drafting my response to this potential client, and I can’t tell you what a HUGE drop in stress I literally felt when I changed the line from “I can have the proposal ready for you on Friday” to “I can have the proposal ready for you by Monday.”

In the working world, that’s only one business day later. In real life, that gives me the entire weekend to work on it to get it just the way I want – to hopefully turn this prospect into a client. I’m sure that if you took my blood pressure, there must have been a big reduction in a matter of seconds as I changed that line above. Just thinking of everything I need to accomplish this week PLUS a completed proposal…. now, I’ve bought myself a few extra days, which is great!

Extended Deadline Does NOT = Time to Procrastinate!

Now, of course, don’t set an extended deadline just so you can procrastinate, lol. I admit I’ve done this several times in the past. That was (hopefully) the “old” me. The “new” me knows the value of time – and as we all know, “time is money.” So I will still work hard on the proposal this week by reviewing the information the potential client gave me, researching related web sites to come up with several options that might work for them, etc.

But, just knowing that I don’t HAVE to get it fully completed this week makes all the difference in the world to my frame of mind. And hey, if I get it completed before Monday – even better! I’ll email it to them as soon as it is ready.

I think your client or potential client would be much happier to have you meet the deadline that you set for the particular project or milestone rather than be late. It certainly does not make a good impression to have that day come and go, and you ending up having to tell them “I’m sorry, this won’t be ready as planned…”

More likely than not, you will look that much better in their eyes if you are able to come in ahead of the deadline, as well. To make sure that you can do this, setting realistic timelines for yourself is important.


  1. says

    Time…and being organized I work hard at it..I was like you Selene…I tried to do it all,and I just got deeper and deeper behind a freind of mine came on board and got me though it and the client was happy with the work…since then I am working at time management every day
    I am going to visit you’re post offten just incase I fall off the rail?…Great site…

  2. Michael says

    We have no problems with our own deadlines. But if you can tell us, how do you get a client or customer to supply their input and ideas in a timely manner? We have one who has taken over six weeks to approve one layout for a product (he’s changed the whole concept three weeks ago) and is acting like our business is merely another department of his own. I understand customer service but people who placed orders weeks ago are still ‘thinking’ but at the same time want their finished products by the original delivery time. HELP!!!

  3. says

    Great site!

    Success comes to those people who can manage their time according to their priorities. It is due to the fact that they can finish doing important tasks at a certain period of time without rushing things and without becoming reckless.

  4. says

    This is one of those skills that is easier to talk about, than to execute, especially when the client is breathing down your neck! What helps me sometimes is pausing to check my schedule, even if I’m pretty sure there’s nothing on it! It gives me time to think about the commitment I’m making, and to be more realistic.

    Of course, I’d need to be running my life from my schedule, which takes a bit of practice (at least a Yellow Belt in “Scheduling” from my estimates.)

  5. Kristen B. says

    Time is really important and managing time effectively seems more important for me. I appreciate the tips especially the part of being realistic and meeting extending deadlines. I have a tendency to cram but I guess I have to learn to budget my time and priority.

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