Do you use deadlines when you make requests? Deadlines are one of the most powerful tools for accomplishment you can use. They give people information that allows them to organize and prioritize the work they have. Without due dates, people aren’t sure when they should work on things. As a result, work gets postponed, no matter how urgent or important it might be.
Deadlines are specific – they tell people the exact date and time by when you want to receive something or start something. For example, “by Thursday at 9AM” or “at 10AM on March 23, 2012”. Telling people you want things “ASAP” (as soon as possible), “when you get a chance”, “first thing”, or “at the next opportunity” is not a deadline. Although you may have a clear idea of when you mean, they don’t and won’t know how to schedule their work. Giving people a specific “by when” reduces the chances of being told later “I didn’t know you wanted it then.”
Deadlines increase accountability – theirs and ours. If you are going to give a deadline, be prepared to receive what is due at the time its due, don’t be “out of the office”. The accomplishment value of deadlines is diminished if people believe you are not serious or if you give false ones (saying you need it by a date when you really don’t).
Deadlines are a tool that can dramatically increase the accomplishment and success of both parties. If you aren’t using them, try adding them to your requests.