Four Ways To Make Sure You Meet Your PR Deadlines

Nobody likes deadline busting, and in the PR business, completing projects on time is critical. Whether it’s finishing a new business proposal, writing a seasonal PR plan or editing that byline – every PR pro juggles deadlines.

As we can all probably attest, missing deadlines can erode credibility, while delivering on time helps earn you a reputation for dependability –a professional and reliable resource. Here are four ways to strengthen your deadline-meeting practice.

Less Is More. It really is! Oftentimes we miss our deadlines because our to-do lists are piled so high it would be impossible to accomplish everything on time. By paring down our action-item list to only the essentials, we clear the way for smoother execution and higher quality, as author Greg McKeown outlines in his best seller, Essentialism.

Write things down, and keep them in front of you.  Not everyone is a visual person, but having some kind of a physical reminder is a proven way to make sure we stick to deadlines. Whether it’s a pen-and-paper list or an app that pings you when you’re approaching your deadline, reminders and signposts don’t just keep us on top of our projects, they help free the mind to focus on the task at hand without worrying about what’s coming later, according to the productivity guru David Allen.

Give yourself more time! As in, not busting the deadline, but better estimating how long a task will take at the outset. Most of us tend to underestimate how much time things take, over-program, and then scramble to get things done. Starting with a more reasonable expectation is one good way to make sure deadlines are met.

Learn to manage expectations. If you need a large chunk of time for a project, do the people waiting for your work product know the job at hand? Does it require a lot of research? Is there much back-and-forth between different parties involved? Communicating what’s going on and what a job entails is a simple way to manage expectations, which goes a long way towards sticking to a timeline.

How Deadlines Motivate Us

Every day we make (and occasionally miss) our deadlines. Catch the train by 8:30am. Get to the bank before 5pm. Submit this blog post by…well, you get the point.

Today’s definition of a deadline is “the time by which something must be finished or submitted”, but it gets its name from an older and more sinister meaning. It used to be a boundary around a military prison beyond which a prisoner could not venture without risk of being shot by the guards. Scary. Think about that next time you face a proposal due by week’s end.

The advantage of deadlines is that they’re motivational. When you make the deadline, the feeling of achievement makes the next step or task that much easier. “Publicly committing to meeting a deadline is a powerful motivator because it puts your reputation on the line,” said Dan Ariely, a professor of psychology and behavioral economics at Duke University. It’s much more difficult to procrastinate when someone else is watching the clock, and you!

Here are some tips to meet that ever looming deadline:

Start with specifics
When exactly is the deadline? Clarify whether “end of the week” means 5 p.m. Friday or first thing Friday morning. Be sure to nail down the tasks and the results. What is the client expecting? How will they measure your success/effectiveness?

Make a plan and start easy
Some of us thrive on the pressure of a last-minute scramble, but rushing at the 11th hour isn’t the best way to meet a deadline. It’s better to make a plan to take tasks head-on, starting with the easy stuff – the aspects you know you are quick wins. Make a commitment to do at least a little bit at a time on a consistent basis. Even if you take a break at a certain point, the task that awaits you isn’t nearly as daunting as it was before.

Don’t be fooled
Who hasn’t reached the point when the oh-so-far away cutoff is just around the corner, resulting in a mad dash under pressure? Far-off deadlines trick us into thinking that we have all the time in the world and convince us that we don’t need to start anytime soon. Ideally, you want to meet a deadline, not have a deadline meet you! When working against the clock, be sure to set shorter deadlines along the way to get manageable chunks of the work done and make a plan to complete the task in plenty of time.

Use tools
Set reminders everywhere. On your calendar. Create tasks in Outlook. Stick a Post-It on your computer in big bold writing. Creating a sense of urgency will keep your deadline top of mind and not pushed aside by distractions.

You never know what’s on the other side of that (dead) line!