How to improve the organization using flexible deadlines

Having deadlines to meet is part of everyday life for most of us. You may have an assignment to do in college, a project at work, or an income tax return to complete; anyway, these all have an end date that you’re working towards.

For the most part, deadlines give you the pressure to get things done. However, if you want to use this to your advantage and better organize your time, flexible deadlines might be the way to go.

The difference between flexible and rigid deadlines

Illustration of arm and money balancing clock

Most of the time, deadlines are set for us; your boss or guardian gives you a completion date for work that is final, and you cannot make revisions after that date. This is a tough deadline, and the consensus is that there will be consequences if you don’t meet it.

Ultimately, everything needs a firm deadline because that means things are over and there has to be a time when a job ends. They provide you with clear expectations from your boss, and it gives you the autonomy to use that time frame as you see fit.

People get more work done when under pressure, and deadlines are a great way to use this phenomenon. This is why people will be working more in the last days or hours before the end date. For example, if you have an assignment due in two months, you’re unlikely to be doing a lot of homework in that first month.

Related: Tips for Avoiding Procrastination and Meeting Deadlines

This is why tight deadlines can be unproductive; without enough pressure, you could end up wasting precious time and rushing to finish your job at the last minute, neglecting other responsibilities. It can also be stressful.

On the other hand, flexible deadlines are set before the hard deadline, assuming that you will complete your project with time to spare. For example, if the firm deadline is two months away, your soft deadline might be three weeks in advance.

You can create your own personal deadlines, and by using this approach, you have enough motivation to work without last minute stress.

Benefits of using flexible deadlines

Illustration of monthly calendar

Setting a flexible deadline doesn’t mean it will work automatically. To take advantage of it, you have to commit to it. There is no point in establishing them if you are going to ignore them in favor of the strict deadline.

However, if done right, personal deadlines can bring many benefits:

  • Better time management and less wasted time

  • More responsibility for your other responsibilities

  • Better organization of your projects

  • A sense of ownership of your time and work

  • Builds confidence

  • Faster completion with time to think creatively

Related: Ways To Use Mind Mapping Technique For Exponential Productivity

Once you’ve met the flexible deadline, you have time to revise and refine your work with plenty of time before it needs to be handed in. In addition, you will have the opportunity to submit it when you are satisfied with the result and respond to any other emergencies that arise.

How to effectively set flexible deadlines

Photograph of the calendar with the date circled in red and the deadline written below

So how do you set a flexible deadline? The key is to have a realistic schedule in mind, which you know you will be able to reliably meet. You should also make sure that the deadline is not too close.

The ideal setting for setting a soft deadline is to deduct 25% of the time from the hard deadline, but this can vary depending on your own constraints. Some things to consider are:

  • If you have other projects in progress and what is the workload of your other

  • How far away is the strict deadline?

  • What is your ideal point for productive pressure

  • If you are working on the project with other people, how can you get around this problem?

  • How big is your project

Once you have these answers, you can determine the most convenient personal completion date and get started.

To ensure that you stick to your personal goal, you need to analyze how you will manage it. Trello is an ideal app for this because it uses a simple table layout that you can manipulate to suit your needs.

Screenshot of Trello project plan

When you’ve created your Trello workspace, open the Lateral bar and under Your boards, click it More sign at Create a new table. You can start with a template, but a whiteboard is fine.

Once you’ve named and created your board, you’ll need to divide your time between now and your flexible deadline into weeks by creating a New list for each week you have:

  1. Click on Add another list

  2. On the first list, where it says Enter the title of the list, type Week 1

  3. Repeat these steps for the number of weeks you have in your schedule

Related: Creative Ways to Get the Most Out of Trello

You can now begin to plot the aspects of the project that you will complete each week. To do this, select Add a map under the week you want, Enter a title for this card and click Add a map.

Break down each step of your project that you need to work on. For example, if you are following a three week schedule, the first week should be spent planning and generating ideas, the second week executing those plans and designs, and the third week focusing.

Screenshot of the Trello card editor window

If you want to keep all of your work in one place, you can upload files to each card you create in Trello by clicking on the card you want to edit and selecting Attachments. You can also create Checklists and add Appointment, if that helps.

Use deadlines to your advantage

Now that you have your flexible deadline, you can rest easy knowing that the job is done with time to spare. The best part is that you now have a choice of what to do with that extra space.

Using flexible deadlines as a regular practice in your work allows you to exercise better organization, and in case any issues arise in the last few days or hours, you are already covered.

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