I was juggling quite a few projects at one time. I was balancing important and not important, urgent and not urgent, I was putting in the hours and efforts, and still one of my projects went beyond the deadline. Yet, it passed without a word from my boss, or anyone else for that matter. As much as I try to do everything I can to communicate progress to the powers that be, in this case, it slipped through the cracks and I didn’t provide any heads-up. For the record, as previously stated, I will emphasize that communication is critical in these matters. Somehow, in this case, it wasn’t done. I had what I thought were the right priorities—a strong relationship with my boss and no intentions of hiding anything—so I let him know that the deadline had passed, and told him my plans for completion. His response? “Oh yeah, I forgot about that. Get it to me when you can. No hurry.”
Let’s go back to the comment that communication is critical to time management. When originally told about the initiative, I should have asked the following question: “What happens if the deadline is missed?” I should have ensured that our priorities were the same. We sometimes have our own internal pressures that are far greater than reality. Do you put more pressure on yourself than anyone else? Reign in some of the pressure and give yourself a break.
It’s time to add the appropriate questions to your arsenal when asked to complete a project. Start by asking when the deadline is, and follow it up with a version of the question, “What happens if the deadline isn’t met?” Getting an idea of the true urgency is important in order to match priorities with the requestor. If he or she says you’ll be fired if you don’t meet the deadline, then I think you understand the priorities. But in all seriousness, if you form the habit of asking questions about prioritization and urgency from the actual requester, you’ll build trust with your colleagues and supervisors and ensure that everyone is consistently attuned to the same goals.
Thomas B. Dowd III’s books available in softcover, eBook, and audiobook (From Fear to Success only):
- Down the Chute: A Toboggan Tale (children’s book)
- Now What? The Ultimate Graduation Gift for Professional Success
- Time Management Manifesto: Expert Strategies to Create an Effective Work/Life Balance
- Displacement Day: When My Job was Looking for a Job…A Reference Guide to Finding Work
- The Transformation of a Doubting Thomas: Growing from a Cynic to a Professional in the Corporate World
- From Fear to Success: A Practical Public-speaking Guide received the Gold Medal at the 2013 Axiom Business Book Awards in Business Reference
- The Unofficial Guide to Fatherhood