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I've recently emerged from another work-all-night deadline. Yet again, I've been asking myself why did it happen and how to avoid it in the future. Job discussion boards, such as Glassdoor, are full of people complaining about working overtime, and other people commenting that 'this is the nature of consulting work'. Working through the night may be a personal decision. However, it's just very likely that the quality of work will suffer.
Please feel free to share how do you approach tight deadlines. Do you just deal with it by working a lot, or have you found ways to prevent the situation?
Here are some of my thoughts on the issue:
1. Sometimes you are just presented with an unrealistic deadline. Someone had a good discussion earlier on how to say 'no' if you are routinely presented with unrealistic deadlines.
2.Personal time management is a big part of it. I am telling myself to start working two extra hours per day a month before the deadline, instead of eight extra hours per day a week before the deadline. This is straightforward but not always easy to do.
3. Project management.- 3a. Estimating how long the work will take. I find it challenging to predict how long something will take me, especially for a new type of project. Forget it, if other people are involved. I've heard of a rule of thumb: to estimate the time you think it will take, and multiply it by two- 3b. Presenting realistic timelines during the bidding and negotiation process while staying competitive. I am curious about this one, as I wasn't on this side of things much. Do you often feel pressured to present tight deadlines to have a chance at the job?- 3c. Unexpected delays, especially delays on the client's side. - Several tight deadlines in my experience resulted from waiting for data or other input from the client, while the final due date hasn't changed. Formulating deadlines in terms of client milestones may be appropriate (e.g. the final document is due X days after client's review of the draft document). I've seen it done on large multi-player projects but not on smaller projects.
Tight deadlines are the rule, not the exception, in consulting for any profession – especially engineering. Tight deadlines are mostly out of our control because they are mostly client-driven.
Since I've been self-employed, I've noticed my deadline management always gets better with the degree at which I prevent procrastination. This seems to get the best of us at times so be aware of when you feel procrastination taking its toll.
Dave Ureña, P.E.
3104 N. Armenia Ave
Tampa, FL 33607
2. "Sometimes you are just presented with an unrealistic deadline."
3. "it mostly comes from a corporate level of not supporting the projects with what they truly need. Basically, jobs are bid for six people to get it done on time and then staffed with four people to meet the same deadlines."
4. "I agree that clients often delay projects by dragging their feet on delivering the data that they are responsible for. "
In my Management Quality by Design, Inc., consulting practice, when I was in a consult session with the partners and/or Board of Directors of engineering firms, I would ask the question:
"If you 'fired' 10 to 15% of your clients, would you be more profitable a year from now?"
With no discussion, the spontaneous response 100% of the time: "YES!"
Habit: Applies to a practice or usage so steadily associated with an individual or group as to have almost the force of unwritten law.
So do you wish to continue the historical-whining, or are you ready to take charge and discuss alternative paths away from and out of this unprofitable and
no-fun, unappreciated project work?