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28 Jan

Five ways to keep track of your deadlines

Datum: 2014-01-28 09:13
A hand is writing the word "Deadline" with a black pen on a whiteboard and then circle it.

By now most of us have start­ed work­ing and for many peo­ple the fall will be filled with activ­i­ties, tasks and dead­lines all the way until summer.

When life gets hec­tic it is even more cru­cial to work on the right thing at the right time than when the tem­po is slow­er. Time is short and many things need to be com­plet­ed dur­ing the months to come. If we make sure we have enough fore­sight, we also enable our­selves to allo­cate our time across all the projects and tasks we are respon­si­ble for com­plet­ing in a more bal­anced way.

For you who pre­fer lis­ten­ing to read­ing, this post is also avail­able as an episode of the Done!” pod­cast:

It is my guess that you also have a hand­ful of dead­lines to meet dur­ing the months ahead; dead­lines which indi­cate when what you are respon­si­ble for needs to be com­plet­ed, report­ed, sub­mit­ted, deliv­ered, done, or produced.

Get an overview

Clar­i­fy what dead­lines you have to meet in the next while ahead in a way that pro­vides you with an excel­lent overview of when what needs to be done, and when you will work on com­plet­ing it until the due date arrives.

This way you will not have to wake up one morn­ing and pan­ic when you real­ize it was this Thurs­day you had to deliv­er some­thing. Instead of get­ting a fright you will be able to plan your work I such a way that you get the most work done when it suits you the best in terms of both your sched­ule and your energy.

But, how and when can we get such an excel­lent overview of our deadlines?

Do this

Here are five examples:

  1. An annu­al cal­en­dar on the wall
    • Pur­chase an annu­al cal­en­dar and high­light the dead­lines-dates in an appro­pri­ate color.
    • Hang it on the wall and make a plan of how you should sched­ule your work in order to fin­ish on time.
    • In a cal­en­dar like this the dates already have their own pre-print­ed squares and you will not have to spend time and ener­gy on design­ing the lay­out of the cal­en­dar. On the oth­er hand you have to live with the lay­out as it is instead of putting your own touch to the visu­al rep­re­sen­ta­tion of your plan.
  2. A drawn time­line on a roll of paper
    • Go to a well-assort­ed sup­ply-store and pur­chase rolled up drawing-paper.
    • Back at the office, roll out as many meters as you want to rep­re­sent the entire year with and draw a time­line from now until the same time next year. Divide the line into months and mark out your dead­lines with a highlighter.
    • For the weeks reach­ing from now until the dead­line you draw thin box­es which rep­re­sent an hour of work every week and much thick­er box­es when you wish to depict full-time engage­ment in the project. This way it will be easy to deter­mine how much time you need to allo­cate to com­plet­ing tasks with dead­lines every week, and how much time you can afford spend­ing on tasks which emerge ad hoc.
    • Attach a stick to each end of the roll so that it is easy to roll up or roll out the time­line when­ev­er you need to, or alter­na­tive­ly put the entire map on your wall, which will mean that there is no escap­ing get­ting remind­ed of it.
  3. An drawn annu­al wheel
    • Draw the year as a wheel divid­ed into twelve sec­tions, one for each month. High­light your dead­lines in an appro­pri­ate col­or and cre­ate some kind of point­er or nee­dle to indi­cate where you cur­rent­ly are on the wheel.
  4. A dig­i­tal timeline-system
    • Use a dig­i­tal sys­tem to keep track of your dead­lines, such as the open source-tool Time­Flow, where it is easy to get a visu­al overview of due-dates in calendar‑, diagram‑, or time­line-for­mat with­out hav­ing to draw much yourself.
  5. Cal­en­dar-book­ings in a dig­i­tal cal­en­dar with­out set times
    • Allow book­ings in your dig­i­tal cal­en­dar with­out set times to rep­re­sent your deadlines.
    • Include a tag in what you name the book­ing, for instance “[Dead­line]” so that they stick out from all the oth­er book­ings. You can also cre­ate a sep­a­rate cat­e­go­ry in a loud col­or which you cat­e­go­rize the dead­line-book­ing with. This way they are clear­ly vis­i­ble in the calendar’s month­ly overview.
    • If you keep your dead­lines in your dig­i­tal cal­en­dar they will always be with you regard­less if you are using your com­put­er, your phone or are online using some oth­er device. But, depend­ing on how your par­tic­u­lar cal­en­dar-appli­ca­tion is able to dis­play the book­ings in dif­fer­ent win­dows or views, the pos­si­bil­i­ty to get an excel­lent overview might vary.

Go through your overview once a week

Regard­less what type of tool you choose to work with to eas­i­ly get an overview of your upcom­ing dead­lines, make sure to include going though it in your week­ly run-through. You should hence skim through the overview at least once a week and remind your­self of when what needs to be com­plet­ed, and there­after book time in your cal­en­dar for work­ing on these tasks or projects so that you are able to meet the deadline.

Be ahead rather than behind

If you cre­ate a clear overview of what your dead­lines for the com­ing year are, you will feel much sur­er that you are doing the right thing at the right time since it will be much eas­i­er to make sure none of your com­mit­ments gets neglect­ed (if you keep the overview up to date, that is). You will be able to work more pro-active­ly since you have more fore­sight and remind your­self more often of what dead­lines you have and when they are due.

What is your way?

What does your dead­line-overview look like? Tell me!

If you want more tips on how to create good structure at work, there are many ways to get that from me - in podcasts, videos, books, talks and other formats.

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