How to Beat That Looming Deadline

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It’s 10 PM, and you and your team are exhausted. Having been hard at work for over 13 hours, the encroaching deadline still hangs over your head. But how did it come to this?
It’s a situation plenty of us have been in before, but one that always manages to find us nonetheless. The unfortunate–and perhaps obvious–truth is that there’s never a definitive answer. Sure, in hindsight, there’s always a million things that could have gone better. Maybe you ran into unexpected issues getting your new UI design to work properly. Or maybe the systems you’re working with didn’t quite fit the project. Or maybe it was something totally out of your control, like a key programmer falling ill.
In preparation for whatever challenges might surface, thorough communication should be the first step in preventing a potential disaster down the line. Both parties on either side of a contract should be explicit with the requirements of the job in question. Misconceptions on either side can almost guarantee frustration down the road.
Of course, even the most prepared teams can fall victim to Murphy’s Law. Again, communication plays a key factor in circumventing unforeseen roadblocks. If something might impede your progress, alerting your client just in case is typically a good route to take. Identifying a problem but ultimately solving it anyway is a better scenario than not saying anything and potentially coming up short on the deadline.

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Aside from having open lines of communication, a schedule and budget of time and resources is another key element for time-sensitive projects. Knowing the individual parts of a project and being able to break them down is an excellent first step of planning. If a particular task is something you’re unfamiliar with, be sure to allot extra hours just in case. Again, better safe than sorry. Extra time can always be allocated to areas that need it. Or better yet, finishing ahead of schedule might give you extra QA time to catch anything that slipped through the cracks.
Still, vague affirmations and generalizations will only take you so far. How you plan your strategy around the people and assets available to you will have the greatest effect on the project underway. Knowing who you’re working with is far more significant than any boilerplate “path to success” that you may read online. Yes, that sounds kind of hypocritical, given the way in which you’re reading this little ol’ post. But I guess all this preparation is more in service to my real point.
At the end of the day, this is more of a “take a deep breath” kind of post rather than an answer to all of your problems. Thoughts and suggestions are fine, but relying on any one critical path isn’t the answer. Assuming that you have faith in your own capabilities in addition to that of your team’s, all you can do is keep the lines of communication open and adapt to any curveballs that Murphy throws at you.

PS: I found this video (one amongst a series) that gives some tips for project management, if you’re still looking for a few extra pointers.

PPS: Here’s a little list of helpful tips for managing that crunch-time stress: http://www.creativebloq.com/careers/deadline-stress-1232976