Dealing With a Missed Deadline

Despite your best efforts at meeting deadlines, your worst nightmare will eventually come true. You will miss a deadline. Before you pull into your shell as the world comes crashing down around your ears, take a good look at your options. As bad as the outlook may seem, you would be surprised at how fast a recovery you can make.

By applying these techniques, you can avoid complete failure and regain your former success in an astoundingly short time.

#1 Over Communicate

The moment you realize that you will be late for the deadline, let the appropriate parties know.  Not only will this begin the path toward your recovery, but it will give them time to adjust their schedule and (hopefully) avoid missing any of their deadlines due to your delay.  If there is anything worse than being late yourself, it is being responsible for making someone else late.

#2 Take Responsibility

It didn’t work in third grade, and it won’t work now.  Even if your dog really did eat your homework, it actually doesn’t matter (yet).  From your professor’s point of view, you are late with your assignment.  Passing the blame will not make you look any better but will actually prejudice the decision maker against you.  Take responsibility and apologize for your error in not anticipating the potential problems.

#2.5 Explain What Went Wrong (optional)

If your dog truly did eat your homework, that might be worth explaining… after you have claimed responsibility for the problem.  Make it clear that you are not trying to excuse the delay, but simply explaining why it happened.

More importantly, mention how you will avoid this particular and similar problems to ensure timely delivery in the future.

#3 Try To Get A New Deadline

While this may not be possible, you never know until you try.  Explain what you have left to complete and how long you expect to need to finish.  Don’t try to get too much extra time, but don’t under estimate the time needed either – you definitely do not want to miss the extended deadline.

#4 Go For Plan B

If you are unable to negotiate an extension, it is time to move to Plan B.  Look for other things that can be cut to give you the time needed to meet the looming deadline.  Perhaps you have too much on your plate and need to remove a few things.  Perhaps this is only a short-term time crunch, and you need to temporarily cut some of the lower priority items.  Either way, now is the time to look for acceptable sacrifices.  Like an expert chess master, look for ways to minimize the damage or even avoid it completely.

#5 Never Miss Another Deadline

Whether you have successfully salvaged your deadline or not, don’t let this failure get you down.  A life without failure is a life without opportunity for success.  Recognize where you made your mistake and create an action plan that will enable you to avoid repeating the mistake.

This particular incident will soon pass, but the lesson learned can be a life-long help… if you let it.

Conclusion

Whether you turn in your paper too late at school or show up to a presentation at work empty handed, the real test is in our response.  Everyone makes mistakes, but only a few recover gracefully.

What deadlines have you missed, and how did you react?

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