If you’re a freelance writer, odds are you will miss a deadline at some point in your career. Whether you misjudge the breadth of a project, get sick, or simply forget to add an assignment to your task list, missing a deadline can be as panic inducing as forgetting a Valentine’s Day gift for your sweetheart.
Here are some quick tips for managing a missed deadline so there’s no love lost between you and your boss:
As with personal relationships, honesty is the best policy when missed deadlines are the subject of discussion. If you didn’t complete an assignment on time, reach out to your manager as soon as possible and admit your mistake. Don’t drown your confession in excuses, flowery words, crocodile tears or pleading. Plainly state why you didn’t meet your established goal, why you didn’t bring it up sooner, and then provide a solution that includes a definitive article submission date.
If you know ahead of time that you’re going to miss a deadline, don’t sit on your hands and watch the clock tick down. Notify your boss immediately! Asking for an extension or help is far better received than missing your deadline with no explanation.
Shake It Off
Okay, you missed a deadline – a work deadline – but now isn’t the time to play 18 rounds of the blame game. Dwelling on your mistake only accomplishes one thing: holding your productivity hostage. And let’s not forget, you still have a project to complete.
Being accountable for your actions is just as much about owning your errors as it is learning when to forgive yourself and move on. Rather than kicking yourself, focus on what will move you forward. Try a new time management strategy, seek encouragement from a colleague or simply realize you still have something to prove.
Make a New Plan
Develop a new strategy that will ensure you meet your next assignment. Start here:
- Identify what went wrong last time to prevent it from happening again
- Review your workload and cut back on the number of assignments you’re accepting, if needed
- Set a time-frame for article completion that includes a 1-3 day buffer in case of emergency
- Separate yourself from distractions
- Avoid procrastination by setting daily goals and sticking to them
- Check in on your project progress and adjust your strategy to minimize setbacks
- When it doubt, ask questions instead of making assumptions
A broken deadline signifies broken trust. This doesn’t mean your working relationships are beyond repair, but it does cast a shadow of doubt over your dependability. To help repair the damage done, keep lines of communication open. In fact, I recommend over-communicating. After you have outlined your new work strategy, keep your manager in the loop with progress reports as well as your solutions for preventing missed deadlines in the future.
Don’t Develop a Pattern
Getting into the habit of missing deadlines is the fast track to unemployment. Even worse, a pattern of missed deadlines could reverberate throughout your entire career: in addition to receiving less-than-glowing references, this type of unprofessionalism typically creates a work reputation more damaged than any broken heart.
Have you ever missed a deadline? How did you handle it? Please share your experience in a comment below.
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