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Time Management – Dealing with those Impossible Deadlines

Time Management - Dealing With Those Impossible Deadlines

You can download a free podcast from Wendy Mason on Dealing with Impossible Deadlines at this link

Do you seem to spend a lot of your time dealing with impossible deadlines? Our lives seem to be full of them! Particularly if you are ambitious and prepared to take on the interesting challenges.

What about when you find yourself rushing to get the children off on that school trip? They need all that kit and it is the day you have an urgent meeting at work. And guess what! That meeting is due to start half an hour before you usually arrive at the office!

Then there is the new project. The boss has given it you because you said you needed a challenge. And it is. It is close to “undoable” and very high profile.

So, how many other times you found yourself with an assignment that is simply impossible to finish in the time allotted?

Or, perhaps, you just have too many “urgent” tasks!

So what do you do?

Well, there are five ways you can deal with impossible deadlines:
  1. Get the deadline extended. Sometimes deadlines just cannot be changed. For example, if I need to tax my car by 31st December, then there isn't much I can do to change the deadline and stay within the law. Other deadlines have to be met because someone is depending on what we have to produce. Some times your reputation may be at risk if the deadline is missed. But quite often deadlines are set by bosses on an “I'd quite like it by then” basis. Or the deadline might be negotiable if it is a choice between this, and the deadline for another more urgent request. It is always worth investigating just why a project is quite so urgent.
  2. Make the case for more resources. If your project is so important to the organization, can you show why it makes sense to give you more help?
  3. Be prepared to delegate. You will have at least one person, and hopefully more, in your team who is ambitious. Have the confidence to share your tasks with them and share the glory - most successful organizations recognize and reward talent spotting. Do it with care but do it – you'll be surprised what it can do for morale and team performance.
  4. Scale it down to the practical. Can you change the scope of what you have been asked to do? Does it need to be so complex? Can you negotiate the requirement down – does your product need to have all those bells and whistles? Could you do or produce something simpler? What is really important about what you have been asked to produce? Get that clear and then you can begin to think about what might be left out
  5. Fess Up”. Tell your boss if you are not going to reach the deadline. Explain why and ask for help. Set it out simply – don't make excuses or blame junior members of the team. – both reflect badly on you. Go to your boss as soon as you know you are in trouble and, if possible, go with ideas for handling the situation.
Most people who take on challenging work find themselves up against impossible deadlines sometimes. What matters is how you handle it.

If you would like advice from a coach in handling your important career issues, then please get in touch. I offer a free half hour coaching session by Skype to readers of this blog.

You can download a free podcast from Wendy Mason on Dealing with Impossible Deadlines at this link

Wendy Mason is a career coach working mainly with professional women who want to make that jump to senior level while having a life outside work. Before working as a coach, Wendy had a long career in both the public and private sectors in general management and consultancy as well as spells in HR. She now divides her time between face to face coaching, and coaching and blogging on-line. You can contact Wendy at and find out more at
Coming shortly – Getting There With WiseWolf, the Career and Personal Development Programme – if you would like to know more

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