It’s April 1. The previous day, March 31, was a huge deadline for certain banks. Certain banks are required to file certain reports with the U.S. Treasury or the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation by the end of day, March 31.
For banks which participate in the U.S. Treasury’s Small Business Lending Fund, the March 31 deadline is crucial. If a report is filed late, the bank would have to pay more than 100% higher interest rates on the debt borrowed from the U.S. Treasury. Thus, there was a lot of pressure to get things done so the banks could file timely.
Thankfully, my team, in conjunction with the banks’ personnel, were able to meet that deadline. It took a lot of effort and coordination to do so. Even though some came down to the wire, I knew we would make it.
Why was I so confident we would meet that deadline? I knew because not meeting it would be unacceptable. It’s what we do. We meet deadlines. We meet deadlines all year.
After so many years in public accounting, I’ve figured out how to meet or beat deadlines. Here is how I do it.
1. Planning – Everything comes down to planning. If you fail to plan, you plan to fail. You’ve probably heard that before. I prefer, however, if you fail to plan effectively, you effectively plan to fail.
You can plan but if you don’t do it effectively, you will not succeed. If you’ve struggled to meet deadlines in the past, try doubling or tripling your planning time and see what happens. You’re more likely to meet or beat a deadline if you spend more time in the planning process.
2. Communication – Much of the communication needed should occur in the planning stage but there has to be communication throughout the project. The more people involved, the more communication is needed.
Nothing causes more delays or issues than the lack of or inadequate communication. This has to be a focus. Communicating responsibilities and answering questions on the front end will keep delays and issues at a minimum toward the end.
3. Front load – Many audit engagements on which I’ve worked take between one and two weeks during busy season. Front loading the work the first week helps tremendously in meeting the deadline at the end.
An hour or two extra each day the first week can result in normal hours the second week. It may even happen that the job gets done early because so much was accomplished the first week. If difficult to resolve issues arise during project, the extra effort in the first week can provide extra time to work on those big issues in the second week.
4. Difficult issues first – Along with front loading a project, working on the difficult or more complex issues first is a must. Those difficult or complex issues take the longest to work through and sometimes require extra effort. You don’t want to be working on things at the end that could cause a change or delay. Get them done first.
5. Provide frequent updates – Providing frequent updates keeps people informed. Informed people are content people. The last thing you want is an unhappy client or boss. Keep everyone informed as you progress.
In certain circumstances, daily updates may be necessary. I’ve found, however, that daily is often too frequent at the beginning but is helpful the closer the deadline gets.
6. Celebrate – When that looming and all-important deadline is met or beat, it’s time to celebrate. You can celebrate with your team, with your client or by yourself. Maybe you do all three.
When I met that March 31 deadline discussed above, I celebrated by going home a little early that day. My family needed to see me as much as I needed to see them. They sacrificed spending time with me while I worked hard to provide my client with quality service. They deserved a little extra time with me once that deadline was met.
Each of the six steps above is common sense. You knew the importance of each one. However, they are harder to practice all together than individually. You’re probably really good at one or two but struggle with another. Put them all together and see how much easier things become.
How have you done with meeting deadlines so far this year? You don’t have to be in public accounting to have deadlines. If you have a job, you have deadlines to hit. How have you done? Can you see how the six steps above will help you?
Please share in the comments below how you’ve used any/all of the steps above, or any of your own steps, for meeting deadlines.