What to Do When You Can’t Meet the Project Deadline

Let’s say your manager has assigned a project to you. You’re already working on a few priorities, but you accept this anyway. Why? Any one of a number of reasons. Maybe you think the project is going to add to your skillsets, or you want your manager to know that you are willing to take on new challenges, or you just can’t say no to your manager. Whatever the case, once you’ve started the project, you realize, you really don’t have the time and resources to deliver. So what now?


(Photo Credit: Simon Law/Flickr)

1. Re-prioritize: Take a look at how you’re currently managing your projects. Evaluate how you are utilizing your time. If you think there’s some scope to change the way you are operating that can help you deliver by the deadline, then make your plan of action accordingly.

2. Analyze the problem: Are your colleagues also struggling? Are you working in a company or team that believes in stretching yourselves too thin? Does your manager assign unreasonable project deadlines to all the team members? If it’s the first, there’s little you can do, because the company seems to be operating in an aggressive mode. However, if it is just your team, talk to your colleagues and understand if they are also struggling with similar issues as you are. Talk to your manager and get support. Do not go on the offensive.

3. Use your manager’s time wisely: If you realize that the problem is not with the company or team but that you feel overworked, have an honest discussion with your manager.

Ask her how she would prioritize the projects you’re working on, so you do not miss out on the most critical priorities. This will not only help her understand the number of projects you are working on, but will also help give her an opportunity to reassign some of your work. However, do this as soon as possible, before you drop the ball.

If you are aware of a colleague who has/had expressed interest in a project, recommend him to your manager. That way, you’re helping your manager, the colleague, and yourself!

4. Give yourself a break: A lot of the heartache and anxiety that comes with not being able to deliver by the deadline comes from the fact that you don’t understand your own limitations. It’s OK to be ambitious, but understand that there is only so much that you can do with your time. That does not reflect badly on you as a professional; that just says you’re human. So cut yourself some slack and push back when you know you’re just not going to be able to do it all.

5. Learn to say no: We’ve discussed this topic in detail in previous posts. The hesitation to say no often leads us into overworking ourselves. While it doesn’t come easily to everybody, saying no can actually help you get your life back!

Tell Us What You Think

So what do you do when you know you can’t meet the project deadline? Tell us your stories in the comments below, or by joining the conversation on Twitter!