Fact: Having deadlines can improve your performance but you must also know how to keep a track of them.
The problem is that many small business owners are juggling so much at any one time they often lose sight of what the deadlines are and which ones they need to achieve for the success of their business. If this sounds like you, don’t panic….you are not alone. Thankfully, we’ve put together some tips on planning and meeting deadlines that will put you back on track.
In planning and prioritising deadlines where exactly do you start?
Firstly, it is important to remember that there are only so many hours in the day. Be productive with your time - if you find that you are losing hours to social media because it is ‘not your thing’ then consider outsourcing it to someone who loves to do it. That way you have freed up your time, which is a valuable resource, and can focus on the core activities for your business. Often an hour by hour calendar can help you visualise what you need to be doing when and can provide much needed focus.
The next best thing to do is to look at the project, identify the objective(s) and then write a step by step list of what you need to achieve each of those objectives. Look at those objectives and assign a deadline to each of them. The key here is to break projects into tasks to help you clarify every detail of the projects, assign accountability to your team members (if you have them), or outsource them to a virtual assistant, work toward larger deadlines, and avoid procrastination. Brainstorm the tasks you need to complete for your project.
Make a note of project deadlines in a calendar (either online or on your phone), or if you are a visual person get a giant wall planner and plot the dates on there so you can quickly see what is coming up.
Don’t get bogged down - delegate!
We cannot stress this point enough. If you have access to someone who is especially good at some aspect of the project, don't be too proud to let them get it done. Have you been stuck creating the company newsletter every month? Look at engaging a freelancer designer to help you put something together. There are a number of virtual business support services that can be utilised by small business owners to help take on daily tasks which bog you down. The moral of the story: it's easier to get things done when you have help.
Keep it real - don’t set unrealistic deadlines.
Be aware of your capabilities and what you can realistically accomplish. There will be times when unexpected projects land on your desk or you are called to help with something else and these are factors you need to bear in mind. Don't take on a two-week task with a one-week deadline unless you're really sure you can get it done. And if your plate is already full, don't hesitate to say no. It is ok to be honest if you cannot meet a deadline rather than put yourself under pressure.
Utilise planning tools.
There are lots of great online planning and collaboration tools that can save you time. One of our regular favourites is CoSchedule which is essentially a drag-and-drop content marketing calendar that allows you to plan, create, and promote content for your business all in one place. This is great for team collaboration as your co-workers can see projects and what is required of them and equally you have a great visual reckoner or what marketing tasks are on the priority list for your business. CoSchedule is also full of general planning and time management tips including free downloadable planners.
Expect the unexpected. You know it is bound to happen so make sure you factor in some ‘cushion time’ for when part of your task takes longer than expected or you get interrupted. Something will generally crop up to put pay to even the tightest of schedules so to avoid issues always have a cushion time while planning your project phases to cope up with such scenarios. This will protect your projects from ruin.
Following the above tips can help you learn to identify plan and manage deadlines effectively. Spending the time preparing properly will mean you are equipped to deal with the task ahead. And if you’re still thinking that you need to outsource any aspect of your business or even learn about how some of the tips mentioned in this blog could help you then email us or call the office on 0121 288 1322.