- August 30, 2023
- Mark Miller
Six Strategies for Impossible Deadlines
When is the last time you faced an “impossible” deadline? For me, it seems like I’ve had several in recent years. I’ve been thinking about this so much, I decided to share my thought process and the strategies I’ve used to maintain focus and keep moving. Reframe the problem. How…
When is the last time you faced an “impossible” deadline? For me, it seems like I’ve had several in recent years. I’ve been thinking about this so much, I decided to share my thought process and the strategies I’ve used to maintain focus and keep moving.
- Reframe the problem. How many truly impossible deadlines have you ever faced? For me, I’ve had some sizable deadlines, but the truth is that few were impossible. Assuming the mindset, “This is impossible,” doesn’t help. It hurts. Rather, reframe the situation more accurately by saying, “This is extremely challenging.”
- Rethink your approach. Based on the challenge you face, you may not be able to apply your traditional work methods. For decades, it was my practice to not work on Sunday; nor did I typically ask my staff to do so. However, I have faced challenges in the past when we did have to work on Sunday. Drastic situations often require non-traditional solutions.
- Rely on others to help. Getting others involved is one of the primary strategies I use when things get crazy. Sometimes you can seek help from other members of your team, sometimes you can find others in your organization who will be willing to help, and you can almost always find vendors and contractors who can add needed manpower to meet challenging deadlines.
- Re-prioritize your work. Everything can’t be urgent. If it is, you need to consider a different line of work. When big deadlines are on the horizon, some work will probably need to be pushed to make space for the most pressing work.
- Renegotiate the deliverable. If you do all you can and still find yourself unable to deliver what is expected when it is due, you can strike a deal. Sometimes, people ask for more than they really need. A simple conversation can sometimes simplify or reduce what is needed. Finally, you can sometimes negotiate stages or phases for a deadline to be met.
- Root out the real issue. If you consistently have what you perceive to be “impossible” deadlines, ask yourself: Why? Is the problem a cultural flaw in your organization? Is the issue your own planning? Are you struggling with self-leadership issues? Are you understaffed? Are you overly ambitious? Challenging deadlines are not the end of the world; we all encounter them. But to constantly be faced with these situations is not healthy for an individual or a culture. If you find yourself in this situation, you may be facing a leadership opportunity to solve a bigger problem than the deadline you are chasing.
Here’s my final thought: Don’t become discouraged. You know, the work we do as leaders is often hard – sometimes really hard! Help your team manage challenging and “impossible” deadlines – just don’t ever let them stop doing challenging work. What you do matters!
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Mark Miller is a Wall Street Journal and international best-selling author, communicator, and the former Vice President of High Performance Leadership at Chick-fil-A. Mark’s leadership journey at Chick-fil-A spanned 45 years, and today, he serves as the Co-Founder of Lead Every Day. Mark began writing almost twenty years ago, and with over one million books in print in more than twenty-five languages, his global impact continues to grow.