So, you underestimated how long it would take you to finish up that project.
Now, you’re pretty sure you’re going to miss the deadline, again.
It happens, especially when we pile too much on our plate and don’t adequately prepare for how we’re going to accomplish it all.
But in those frantic moments, when we will feel our entire lives sinking under us, what do we do?
How do you convey to your boss, co-workers – or worse, your client – that you’re in over your head and that you’re not going to be able to have things done as expected?
Well, pump the brakes. Before you make any sudden impulsive movements, there’s a few things you should do first.
Step 1: Check-in
If you’re not quite sure if the deadline is a hard deadline, you can casually check in with the person who gave you the deadline to make sure.
Something as simple as, “Hey Chelsea, I know you mentioned that you wanted to take a look at that presentation this Wednesday, did you still have it on your schedule to look at it on Wednesday or is there some flexibility?”
This laid-back question can give you a peak into whether you need to put some fire behind you or if you’re free to breath freely. If you get a response that lets you know you have more time, then you can rest easy knowing that you don’t have to rush as much as you thought you did.
But, if you get a solid answer that your project needs to be done by the original deadline, it’s time to move to Step 2.
Step 2: Reassess Your Workload
Now that you’ve discovered that your current deadline must be upheld, it’s time to take a look at your schedule. It’s likely you’ve already taken a look at your to-do list, hence why you’re probably freaking out right now. But it’s worth a second look.
Chances are, something on your to-do list has a soft deadline. There may be something that you told yourself needed to be done. But, it may not need to be done as fast as you thought it did. Or, there may be something someone else told you to do that may not be as urgent as once perceived.
If you happen to stumble on something that you think can pushed around, don’t hesitate to push it around. Check-in again with the necessary people involved. Then, push it to the side so that you can get the most important things done on time.
If you’re at your wits end, and there’s nothing you can push around to meet your deadline on time, it’s time to move to Step 3.
Step 3: Make the Ask for a New Deadline
This can be the most intimidating and defeating thing to do, especially if you’re the type of person who prides yourself on getting things done on time. But it’s your last resort if you don’t want to wait until the last minute to break the bad news – which you should never do.
So how do you do it in a way that doesn’t leave a bad taste in the person’s mouth?
The best way to do this is to ask for a new deadline that you’re 100% sure you can meet. Don’t ask for an extra day, if you know that there’s no way on earth that you can finish it all in one additional day.
If you need two more days, or even three, ask for exactly what you need.
When asking, you can try saying: “Would it be possible to extend the deadline to Monday morning instead of this upcoming Wednesday? I’m in the middle of finalizing the final parts of the project and could really use the few extra days to make sure everything is exactly how it should be before you review it.”
Once you ask, you may find out that Monday doesn’t work and that you really need to have it done by Friday. But at least you’ll still be buying yourself more time than if you didn’t ask at all or if you waited until the last minute to share your concerns.
Step 4: Exceed Expectations
Now that you’ve gotten the much-needed stamp of approval, it’s time to do whatever you need to do to make sure that you not only meet the new deadline but also exceed their expectations for the project.
If you can, turn in the project earlier than the new deadline. This could help alleviate some of the frustration the other party feels about your unreliability.
Finally, once the project is completed and submitted, take a deep breath and celebrate.
But before you do, make sure to re-evaluate how you’re prioritizing your tasks and managing your schedule.
If you’re new in your role or a repeat offender, you probably have a pending conversation on your horizon and it’ll be in your best advantage to already have clear strategies in place that show you’ve taken initiative to be more productive and to manage your workload.