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2 min readPoll Results: When Things Don’t Get Done

by Guy Gage | October 24, 2009 | Business

The last poll asked you for the reasons why you don’t get things done on time. Of course, it assumes that you don’t, at least some of the time. Don’t take it personally—it’s just a reality of professional service. There are client demands, administrative tasks, firm-related projects and meetings, and staff who need your guidance. The strain arises because of the shifting priorities and crises which you can’t plan for. The net result is you miss deadlines and expectations, something you dislike and want to change.

The number one reason given in the poll for missing deadlines was that you were distracted or forgot. This doesn’t surprise me. The multitude of things thrown your way increases the longer you’re in the profession.

The second reason did surprise me. You said you are late because you underestimated the time it took to do the project. How could someone who has practiced as long as you miscalculate what you’ve been doing your entire career? Even allowing for every engagement being somewhat different, I was surprised you stumbled for this reason.

These reasons lead me to offer two suggestions that may minimize your faltering. There are two disciplines that, if you adopt, will have an impact on your ability to  meet your deadlines.

First, quit accepting verbal requests. You can’t remember everything as it is; you don’t need more to worry about. Trying to keep everything straight and organized in your head is highly unlikely, as evidenced in your missing deadlines.

Early in your career you could manage just fine by remembering what you needed to. But now you’re a partner or manager, it’s too much. “I’ll just remember” is not a good way to manage all there is for you to keep track of. By asking for the request to be emailed to you or written down is a much better option. Now you have a fighting chance to succeed. Or, when a request is made of you, write it down immediately or as soon as you get a chance.

The point is this: if you try to remember everything, you have to be constantly vigilant. You can’t shut down at night, on weekends or when you’re on vacation because you may miss something. If you write things down and have the list readily available, you can let it go from your mind. Relax. Shut down.

As for underestimating the time a project or engagement will take, that’s all about planning. Most likely you aren’t giving enough time to think through what needs to be done, who should be involved, and a realistic timeline and deadlines assigned. If you don’t take the time to do this up front, you will pay for it on the back end…and miss the deadline.

If a substantial project is yours to manage, schedule a meeting with yourself and put it on your calendar to plan and organize its completion. It is that important. If you don’t, you have to somehow shoehorn it in between your other activities, which means you probably won’t get to it at all. It’s not like there is a lot of white space on your calendar as it is.

The bottom line is this: when you practice these two disciplines and quit relying on your memory or flying by the seat of your pants, you will perform at a higher level, increase the confidence others have in you, and enjoy your work and your career so much more.

Go for it.

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