The 7 Deadline Sins

The great Douglas Adams once wrote, “I love deadlines. I like the whooshing sound they make as they fly by.”

He never worked in tech PR.

All jesting aside, here at Sterling, we regularly work under deadlines for our clients: drafting and wiring press releases, placing contributed articles, nominating for awards or submitting speakers for industry conferences, scheduling social media posts, creating metrics reports, etc. We operate under internal deadlines as well to ensure the company functions smoothly and our tech PR prowess continues to evolve and expand.

When it comes to business, everyone faces deadlines. Thus, the internet is littered with handy lifehacks designed to aid in beating the clock. That’s great, but it’s also important to know what to avoid if you hope to deliver on your personal KPIs. So, I wrote up a compendium of deadline fouls for PR Daily, which I’m also sharing here. Avoid these seven deadline sins to successfully meet your obligations in the workplace.

  1. Assuming you don’t need approval or review: Give yourself (and your colleagues) plenty of time to review, revise, and/or approve the respective project. Don’t expect that no one else needs to see it before it’s officially complete — it’s very likely someone does, and at the very least, it’s always helpful to have another pair of eyes on the work.
  2. Calling in sick the day it’s due: If something falls through the cracks, don’t make matters worse by playing hooky and letting the burden fall on others. To offset situations that arise where you genuinely may be unable to work on deadline day, always prepare and convey the necessary steps and information so that someone else can complete the task seamlessly.
  3. Failing to ask questions: If something is unclear, it’s better to ask about it up front than to waste time heading down the wrong avenue. Review requirements at the outset and discuss any questions with the appropriate stakeholders. Clarity is the mother of productivity. Meeting a deadline is only successful if the completed work meets its criteria.
  4. Waiting until the last minute: Many of us still have recurring nightmares about this from our school years! Procrastination breeds panic. It can be easy to underestimate the amount of time, effort, and resources required to complete a given project. Start early so that you don’t wake up with dread on deadline day. There is only so much you can do in so many hours. Plan accordingly.
  5. Withholding status updates: You likely have colleagues involved in the project you’re working on. It’s always a good idea to communicate the status of your work at each stage so that collaborators are informed and up to date. This also serves as a safety net, since other people can often spot potential issues that you might miss while working in a silo.
  6. Expecting everything to run smoothly: Regardless of how optimistic you are or how much confidence you have in yourself and in others, hiccups are bound to arise. Allow yourself a buffer for unforeseen setbacks (and trust that they will occur). One best practice is to set an internal deadline ahead of the actual, final deadline — so that you’ll always have extra time in your pocket.
  7. Neglecting to create a schedule: Schedules and sub-deadlines are the most effective tools for staying on track. For larger tasks, try mapping out the various steps and checkpoints throughout the process. Even for smaller assignments, understanding from the onset who is doing what by when makes it less likely that an important box is left unchecked when deadline day arrives.

Sadly, there are many ways to miss a deadline, but avoiding these seven sins goes a long way toward preventing that “whooshing sound” as they fly by. Just check your pride at the door, stamp out sloth, … you get the idea … and start tackling your next deadline. (Right about now would be a good time.)

Lisa Hawes can be reached at lhawes@sterlingpr.com. You can also follow her on Twitter at @LisaKayHawes.