Set a soft deadline

taskmasterAn inevitable part of running a small business is dealing with deadlines.


Sometimes it can feel like you’re handcuffed to a treadmill. There are customer orders, shipping dates, bills from suppliers, deadlines for tenders, business proposals, bills, more bills, the banks and government regulators and, lest we forget, the tax office.


Even more inevitable than the business deadline is the fundamental law of the universe. No, I’m not talking about gravity, particle physics or thermodynamics. I’m talking about Murphy’s Law: Anything that can go wrong, will. This is especially true when it comes to computers.


Computers crash. Then your server goes down. Your email stops working. You need to reboot your computer only to realise that critical spreadsheet didn’t save correctly. When it does save correctly, the website you were going to send it to is down for maintenance or doesn’t work with Firefox.


Then there are the days when even the Gen-Y Tech Master can’t get that old printer to work. Other days, Old Taskmaster gets so sick of Windows that laptops accidentally decide to go flying out the windows of Taskmaster Towers.


Back in high school, if you left homework to the last minute only to have your Aunty B or Aunty C drop by for an unexpected visit, the worst that could happen is you’d get told you’re visiting the headmaster for detention after school. In business, the worst that could happen is you get told you’re visiting the taxman for an audit or a detention after court.


So how do you avoid the “dog ate my homework” moment in front of the regulator for the business homework you didn’t get around to doing?


Break those big jobs up into little pieces. Set your clocks forward by five minutes. Then set a “soft deadline” ahead of the real deadline.


That regulatory form that’s due next Friday? Get it done by Thursday. If you get it done by the soft deadline, you can move on to the next task. If you find at the last minute you need a copy of some obscure document, you still have a whole day up your sleeve.


And, if you’re walking past Taskmaster Towers, be sure to watch out for any laptops that decide to go flying.


Get it done – today!


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