Project deadlines are a double-edged sword: when structured appropriately, these provide just the right sense of urgency that pushes a team to get the job done in time with little unnecessary stress.
However, when other factors interfere, project deadlines can feel like looming monsters which are never satisfied.
If you’re feeling this way, you’re not alone. The Gallup Business Journal wrote that only 2.5% of companies actually complete 100% of their projects on time.
There can be a number of reasons, legitimate or avoidable, that contribute to what can, at times, seem to be inevitable and numerous delays. Whether it’s your company’s culture or a client’s needs delaying the project, remaining calm and focused is the first step towards well-timed execution of projects.
Jimmy Dean once said: “I can’t change the direction of the wind, but I can adjust my sails to always reach my destination.”
Remember that, even in the midst of constantly shifting priorities, tasks, and never-ending interruptions, you are the one in control: you are the one who can change your approach to work in order to increase your productivity, no matter what stands in your way.
We’ve listed a few strategies below that can help you “adjust your sails” in order to manage your project in a timely manner.
1. Prioritize and Remove Distractions
Everyone struggles with deadlines and milestones at some point. In addition to remaining calm and focused, removing distractions is a key step towards making progress.
Samsung performed extensive research on productivity; their studies show that 31% of respondents identified telephone calls as the biggest distractions.
This level of distraction can be increased to an even greater degree when you’re talking about a cell phone (with all of the wonderful diversions of Facebook and Candy Crush) instead of an office phone.
Putting the phone on silent can make a huge impact on your level of productivity.
According to Samsung’s research, it takes employees an average of 15 minutes to regain the momentum they lost after being interrupted.
This means that the more distractions you have to deal with the harder it will be for you to cope with an already tight schedule, the longer your day will last, and the less you’ll get done.
There are innumerable other distractions that can take away from your productivity. Take fifteen minutes to evaluate your office space: glance around and see what catches your attention. What are the things that bother you?
What are decorations that are too flashy, bring up too many memories (even good ones), or allow coworkers to play with activities or games on your desk?
Think through ways that these distractions can be minimized or eliminated; every minute you spend eliminating distractions is literally hours of productivity you’ll gain back over the coming days.
2. Plan your moves before making them
Instead of jumping right into a project, it is better to take a few minutes and plan out where your next steps will take you. According to Brian Tracy, author of Eat the Frog, 10–12 minutes invested in planning your day will likely save at least 2 hours of wasted time and effort throughout the day.
The same principal applies when managing your work flow to meet milestones. You can save time by planning it, breaking it down into smaller, more easily manageable tasks.
As the saying goes, the best way to eat an elephant is one bite at a time.
A study by sociologists found that about half of workers with unpredictable schedules reported “serious psychological distress”.
One of the major reasons for this is that many professionals constantly feel that they are behind; they exist in a constant “reactive” state instead of a far more desirable “proactive” state.
The Society for Human Resource Management reports that 70% of employees work beyond scheduled time and on weekends; more than half cited “self-imposed pressure” as the reason.
The most important step in preventing this is planning ahead and sticking to that plan; this enables you to be disciplined and appropriately structure your workweek for maximum efficiency.
3. Get your tech on
If you have a problem at work, you can be almost certain that a technological solution exists for it.
Task management software can provide a tremendous advantage by not only helping you to structure and plan your tasks ahead of time, but keeping you on track throughout the week and getting you back on track after the inevitable disruption takes place.
Samsung’s research suggests that blocking non-work sites during work hours to control online disruptors like social media may facilitate increased productivity.
While social media isn’t inherently bad, and can even be a great tool when working with millennials or other tech-savvy groups, it can also be a distraction.
Being able to know the difference between these two and practice enough self-control to turn off everything that is unnecessary is one of the huge differences between someone who is productive and feels in-control and someone who is constantly behind and feels helpless.
Task management tools can help you organize your work by creating task lists in one place, keeping you on track with what you have to do, and reminding you of when these tasks are due.
According to Samsung’s research, employees’ productivity dropped by 40% when they tried to do more than one task at a time.
By organizing your tasks using an online task management tool you can drastically increase your productivity almost immediately.
The online task management software nTask was built from the ground up to help you deal with these issues. Consider checking it out (it’s free, so no risk) and seeing if you can reap the benefits of increased productivity.
What would you recommend to get work done on time? Let us know in the comments below.