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On-Time Quality: The Chain Reaction of Deadlines

Posted on 4.30.2013

Rules might be made to be broken, but deadlines aren’t. So when we were just eight days away from our hard deadline for this issue, and my son’s day care was calling, I decided to ignore the call (just kidding).

Even if there wasn’t a one-hour rule to pick up a sick kid, I would have put on my mommy hat and raced to get my 17-month-old toddler who had a fever. Why? Aside from loving the lil’ guy to the nth degree, he is my greatest (and most welcomed) responsibility, but that doesn’t mean this issue’s to-do list didn’t race through my head. Due to proper time management and smaller deadlines leading up to our “big” deadline, however, I could afford to miss a few hours of precious magazine prep time to spend them with my sick baby instead — and not feel too much anxiety over it.

Nearly every project we do has some sort of unexpected hurdle, and how we prepare for those obstacles speaks volumes of the quality of service we provide (our services, as professionals). We have deadlines even if our kids get sick, or if software crashes or if there are unforeseen changes from the higher-ups. Knowing this, why don’t we plan for these complications? It’s not unlike tricking yourself and setting all your clocks 15 minutes ahead. Rationally, you know that 7 a.m. is really 6:45 a.m., but the adrenaline is still motivating you to get going. I do this, much to my husband’s chagrin. He doesn’t need the trickery, because he has the “If you’re on time, you are late” mentality, which we all should have.

Feedback and the changes based on it moves our industry. The only way to have time for feedback is to make time for it. Remember to allot time for revisions to improve the quality of the product or service you are offering. The first draft isn’t the last draft — or even the second or the third. The most obvious way to make time for feedback is to set deadlines and adhere to them (e.g. first draft is due on, second draft is due on).

That said, some of us are better at adhering to deadlines than others. Motivate yourself and your staff to meet deadlines by sending reminders and emphasizing why the deadline is important. Oftentimes, we are simply motivated by how our actions will impact our colleagues. When we miss deadlines, it affects the rest of the workflow. It’s terrible to be the cause of stress for someone(s) we respect, and we are when we don’t give them enough time to do their job in a quality manner.

We also tend to set self-imposed deadlines. How many times have you said, “I’ll get it to you by EOD,” and not actually followed through, because there was a last-minute meeting or something became a higher priority? Don’t set deadlines for yourself that you can’t meet. Your quality stock plummets. Instead, say no to projects you don’t have time for (or assign it to someone who does) and prioritize.

While we cannot predict fevers, we can move up deadlines, delegate assignments and re-think our overall schedules to ensure we deliver quality on time. Our stock and our colleagues depend on it.

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