How having strangers staring you in the face can help get things done

Everyone’s been there – working on a project you have to deliver where you are the one in control of the delivery date.

And so the inevitable happens.

You give yourself an arbitrary goal; “the end of the month”, “two weeks time”, “next Thursday” something like that, and sure enough one after another things start getting in the way.

  • Something that you thought would be done in an instant takes days
  • The person you were counting on for X turned out to not be all that reliable
  • You’re just not quite happy with everything until it’s all perfect.

So what happens to that deadline you set?

It slips.

It gets pushed back, moved around and its goal posts get shifted too. Tasks get added beyond the original spec of the project, and things begin to take longer and longer than planned. Before you know it your one week task turns into a two week task, then a three week task, then a month long ordeal!

Still with me on this?

I’ve suffered from this problem several times in the past, particularly when coming up to the launch of my first Kickstarter campaign. Tasks kept growing as I added to them and fretting over details caused no one tasks to ever been signed off when intended. This meant the goal posts kept moving and ultimately…

…I over-ran my original deadline by weeks.

Why was this? Well I now know it was down to the person project managing the whole thing. Me.

Because I was the one in charge of completing the project I spent as much time on each task as I deemed appropriate. This was almost always too much time. I’d also push the deadline back if it was getting uncomfortably close and change the overall aim of the project if I had a new idea or thought I could improve something further.

The result? The project I eventually completed was very different from the project planned at the start and it took waaaay longer than intended. But was the project a success? Sure in that I was happy with the standard I’d completed it at…

…But if I measured it by how I kept to the initial schedule and whether I delivered on the goals set out at the start?

Absolutely not.

So the main lesson I learnt from all of this? Set deadlines you have to stick too. How? By letting other people hold you accountable. By this I don’t mean hiring a project manager necessarily. I mean choosing the deadlines you set, and how you set these deadline, very carefully. Here are a few examples:

 

  1. Announce a project completion/ product launch/ ship date – this way you’ve now got a captive audience waiting on you to deliver!
  2. Sign up to a tradeshow/ speaking event/ exhibition – this way you’re committing to having something to show people at the event, if you don’t it’ll be a huge embarrassment afterall!
  3. Take part in challenge prizes and other types of competitions – this way you’re competing with other people to deliver what you promised by a certain deadline.
  4. Take on another commitment set to clash in the future if things overrun– this might be something as simple as booking a holiday or saying yes to another big project. It just has to be something which you won’t be able to run in parallel with your current project. This way you’re forced to finish the one at hand first.

 

I now try and make a habit of using at least one of these 4 strategies to help me stay on target with current projects. I’m already noticing a big difference in my project management when compared to before the change!

So do you use any of these 4 techniques, or perhaps others, to help you stick to self-imposed deadlines? Let me know in the comments below.

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