Overcoming Challenging Deadlines by Brandon Eley / SitePoint Tribune

by Brandon Eley of SitePoint Trubune

Have you ever had one of those weeks where you had more to accomplish than you thought was humanly possible? Last week was like that for me. We had several projects that had to be completed by Friday, and it seemed like everything was working against me to achieve this.

Normally, I'd have just worked late a few nights and it would have been done. Last week, as life would have it, my wife and children had several activities planned, so I was unable to work late on Monday, Tuesday, or Friday. I also had a conference call Wednesday night and a grand opening at a friend's new retail store on Thursday afternoon. So there was no working late any day last week for me.Sprinkle in the odd committee meeting, emergency email, or urgent phone call, and I was really starting to panic. I knew I had to get the project done, but how? Following are some of the measures that enabled me to complete the project in time.

Limit time spent on email

Email was checked first thing in the morning and right before leaving for the day. I spent maybe 10-15 minutes each time (some days much less), making sure there were no urgent issues that needed to be addressed. Everything else (and I mean
everything) was left until after the project was completed.The upside to this was that I spent much less time checking email, and was able to spend that time working productively. The downside was that I had hundreds of emails piling up, waiting for me when I was finally done.

Cut out social media and online reading

My standard morning routine usually involves checking email and Facebook (briefly), going through my RSS feeds, and looking at TweetDeck for my friends' latest activity; with the latter I also like to see what's going on in our industry with several lists and saved searches.These activities, when done in moderation, can be informing and educational, and can help you learn and grow. But, they're secondary to why I go to work every day. For all of last week, I practically cut out all social media. I was on TweetDeck just a couple of times, or posted an update from my phone. My RSS feed remained unread all week; I hit 1000+ on the second day.But, between email and social media, I estimate that I freed up an extra hour a day of productive time. That's five hours over the week. Granted, the downside is I still had thousands of RSS entries and hundreds of emails to go through later, but I found that to be only a small problem. It's amazing how your viewpoint can change on what's important or urgent after several days.

Ask for help

Last week I had to ask for help from several of our employees, and I even hired a contractor for two days. That was difficult for me, because I'm inclined to just keep accepting projects and piling on the work. I can usually handle the workload, but this was an exception.Having a worker there to ask a simple question when you become stuck can mean the difference between spending one hour or four on a task. Don't be stubborn, ask for help. Even if you're a one-man shop, you can probably ask a colleague or even find a contractor.

Make a "punch list"

There are so many little tasks that make up a project, so it can be especially tough towards the end when everyone starts noticing misspellings, glitches, CSS display issues, and so on. It's near impossible to change them all when you find them (and there may be others looking as well).By Brandon Eley of SitePoint TribuneIn our business, we make what we call a "punch list" in Google Docs and share it with everyone on the project. We give each individual task its own line in the document. When we notice a problem, we just throw a line in the file.At the end of the project, we all go to the punch list and start working on these smaller issues. Working on these all at once seems to take a lot less time than stopping what we're doing during the project to fix them.

Have a good attitude

I'm not one of those "your attitude determines your altitude" kind of guys. I'm usually fairly practical about success, but having a good attitude can make a really big difference in personal productivity.When you're working on a project that you really,really don't want to work on ... how does that make you feel? Similarly, when you're working on a fun project, everything appears easy and problems almost seem to solve themselves.I felt much more productive last week and think my attitude had a lot to do with it. If I dreaded working on the project every morning, I doubt whether I would've worked as hard or as fast to finish the job.Next time you have a really tight deadline to meet for a client or project, try some of the tips above. See if they help you to be more focused so that you complete the job on time.


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