How to Use Deadlines to Your Advantage

How to use deadlines to your advantage

We often live in fear of deadlines or see them as the main source of our stress. You know how it goes: “Only two months left to make your annual target”, “The report has to be completed and on the boss’ desk by Friday morning”, or “The customer has to have this by the close of business today”.

Here is the thing; it is how you frame deadlines that will determine how you perceive them. Do you see deadlines as something which is there which will disturb your work-life balance or something that can you achieve a better balance? Do you want deadlines to be a source of stress or a source of energy? The choice is yours.

Here are some of the ways you can reframe deadlines to help you become more effective and efficient by adopting a perspective of:

  • Deadlines provide a means by which you can easily and quickly prioritize your work.
  • Deadlines help you and your team to focus, align your efforts and improve collaboration
  • Deadlines help you to determine when and why you “just say no”.

Deadlines can help you be more productive when used properly. In doing this:

1. Don’t give everything a deadline.  Not all work is important and urgent – only give deadlines to work that is. If you create a deadline for everything then if everything is a priority, nothing is a priority.

2. Plan around the deadlines. You need to make sure that you allocate people, time and resources in a suitable way to ensure the work gets done. This is especially true with deadlines that are further out in the future, and where we are often more prone to procrastinate and then we panic to complete the work in time.

3. Create contingency plans. We have all experienced the problem of being behind schedule. We know it can happen, so create contingency plans so that know what to do and how to recover the lost time.  Especially if your work is dependent on others doing the work on-time. If you don’t have a contingency plan you will be forced to react, this usually results in poor decisions being made and poor results realized.

4. Have mini-deadlines. If the deadline is a long way off, then create mini-deadlines for smaller pieces of the work. This helps you to monitor progress and ascertain where the plan and deadlines might be at risk.

5. Let people know what is happening.  Your work is often impacted by the work (or lack) of others and in turn your work (or lack) of impacts other. Make sure you let others know what is happening or not, and the associated upside and risks – similarly others need to reciprocate.  Doing this helps you to determine what needs to be done to keep to the deadline, what might be needed a change in the scope of work being done, or if the deadline needs to be shortened or lengthened.

Deadlines are a tool. Using them properly they can help you get more of the work done, and more of the right work done. Use these guidelines to help you leverage the power of deadlines and get more done, more easily with less stress.

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3 Steps to Overcome Your Obstacles

“Bad companies are destroyed by the crisis. Good companies survive them. Great companies are improved by them”  – Andy Grove, co-founder of Intel

I know the commonly accepted thinking is that to be more successful you need to address and leverage your strengths, not your weaknesses. I have even written an article on this previously. But I would like to share with you a complementary but slightly different perspective.

The thinking is that if your focus on improving your strengths you can raise the level of your performance to a higher level; whereas if you look to improve your weakness you are likely only to raise it to an acceptable level of performance, not a higher level of performance. The reason for this is that this particular area, your weakness, is not particularly well aligned with your capabilities (if it was it would be a strength) and so it is harder for you to maintain an improved level of performance, and you are likely to slip back to a lower level. With strengths, because your capabilities are aligned with them, you are able to sustain this improvement in performance.

The thinking here is not to ignore your weaknesses, but by being aware of what they are (and being honest with yourself about them), you can work with others whose strengths complement and compensate for your weaknesses (and similarly you do the same for them).

However, great individuals, like great companies, can find a way to transform weakness into a strength. So how do they do this?

“Within every obstacle is an opportunity to improve our condition…”

Great people and great leaders see the obstacles that they face – whether they are external or internal to them – for what they are, and have the ingenuity and will to tackle them effectively. Your obstacles may be mental, physical, emotional or perceived – but you can tackle these weaknesses and make them strengths.  You do this by taking the perspective of “I can make this good” – whatever the obstacle may be. This is not being naively optimistic, but rather seeing the obstacle as a new opportunity to progress or go in a better direction.

3 Steps in Overcoming Obstacles

Overcoming obstacle is a discipline and a process. The process is simple, but it is not easy, and it consists of three steps:

1. Perception – how do you look at your specific problems or obstacles? What is your attitude or approach?  How you perceive, frame and approach an obstacle will determine how likely you are to overcome it.

2. Action – how dedicated are you to taking action? (because with no action there is no change or progress). And what creativity can you bring along in addressing the obstacle that will turn them into opportunities?

3. Will – do you have the on-going inner strength and desire to continue with this process, even if you experience adverse conditions or poor results?

Use this process to help you embrace your obstacles and weaknesses, and in doing so you can turn them into strengths. And when you have strengths then you can leverage them to great effect.

To view or download a PDF version of this blog click here

Share your thoughts and ideas here, or email me at

If you found this article of use or interest please don’t hesitate to share it with others.

Click here to find out more about Andrew Cooke and Growth & Profit Solutions.