How To Effectively Work To Deadlines

One of my favourite authors, Douglas Adams, wrote about his publishers’ deadlines: “I love deadlines; I love the whooshing sound they make as they pass by!”

Deadlines that are set for your projects can be a helpful driver or a fearful hinderance. Depending on your work style, you can either welcome the focussed nature of a piece of work that has a definite finishing point, or be distracted to the point of madness with the pressurised combination of worry and need for perfection.

When you’re about to set a deadline, always do it consciously. Stop, pause and consider the value of the deadline before acting. Here are some do’s and don’ts regarding deadlines:


  • Set deadlines when the person responsible for achieving the end result has direct control over the resources to complete the job. That way, you can set an accurate assessment of the time required
  • Set stretching and achievable deadlines for productivity
  • Encourage urgency and quality planning
  • Break down the major objectives into milestone achievement-points
  • Communicate the value of the result of achieving the deadline with all those with responsibilities for it
  • Be optimistic but realistic about the timing
  • Think and plan the journey. Then keep monitoring the progress


  • Set deadlines when you need to achieve objectives that rely solely on people outside your direct control. Instead, set objectives and targets and work with them to create deadlines that all agree with
  • Let your desire for productivity affect your realistic outlook
  • Set deadlines for real creative work that needs a journey rather than a destination. You need to encourage creative thought over the long-term
  • Put pressure on people by micromanaging. Instead, allow them to report on progress themselves.

Creating a proper mindset for deadlines is possible if the planning of the journey is considered and realistic. Making the deadlines unrealistic affects the thought processes required to achieve it by building too much pressure. Allowing yourself and others the time to achieve reduces the pressure cooker affect and encourages creative ideas to flow. The result should be a well-constructed, thoughtful journey that gets results.

Many thanks

Mark Williams

Head of Training

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Mark-WilliamsMark Williams

Mark Williams is a learning and development professional, using business psychology and multiple intelligences to create fascinating and quickly-identifiable learning initiatives in the real-world business setting. Mark’s role at MTD is to ensure that our training is leading edge, and works closely with our trainers to develop the best learning experiences for all people on learning programmes. Mark designs and delivers training programmes for businesses both small and large and strives to ensure that MTD’s clients are receiving the very best training, support and services that will really make a difference to their business.