It’s Santa’s Deadline – Not Yours!

santa  panic

Is Christmas a good deadline to set yourself and your team for completing your project?

In November it is all too easy to see this great visible landmark in the calendar as the perfect line in the sand to set for delivering your project.

Here are a couple of reasons why Santa should be the only project manager with a deadline of 24th December.
1. The run-up to Christmas is always a busy time with way too many distractions – clients pressuring you for delivery before the big day, as well as staff parties and Christmas shopping to squeeze in… I could go on
2. Who is actually going to benefit from all your hard work over Christmas? Won’t everyone be busy eating turkey and opening presents?
3. Is it even a realistic timescale? Look again at the work you need to do to get a successful outcome, so easily ignored in the face of such an obvious deadline.
4. What is wrong with delivering a project on 10th January, mid January or even the end of January?

We all do it – we want it before Christmas, before Easter, before the summer break – but if the only reason is that obvious red colour in your calendar, it’s time to think again.

Here are some better deadlines to work towards:
1. In time for that conference you are exhibiting at.
2. Before the funding is no longer available.
3. While your supplier has the opportunity to support you.
4. So that you release your product or service “well ahead” of the event it is relevant for – which may indeed be Christmas!


And remember to include the whole team – your reasonable deadline may not be so reasonable for your staff, suppliers or customers.

When I was in charge of delivering training programmes, I noticed team managers always wanted to start training on Mondays, nice and neat on the calendar. Does that work for the staff? Absolutely not!

We all get into the zone as the week progresses and then relax over the weekend, so Monday morning is not a good time to start anything new. It may even be the same for computers – you would not believe how often IT systems fell over on Monday mornings, before a room-full of disgruntled delegates waiting not-so patiently for the glitch to be worked out.

Add this to the list: Christmas deadlines make problems like these ten times worse – who wants to stay late and iron out problems on Christmas eve?

So how should you set your project deadlines?

Here are a few tips to help:

1.Take the bottom-up approach – measure the time needed on each activity to bring you toward the goal, then add it all up.
2. Add extra time for additional commitments your team is busy with apart from your project.
3. Consider which activities can be done simultaneously, and more importantly which cannot.
4. Account for the skills and experience of your team – it can drastically affect the amount of time or extra resources a task requires.
5. And of course – when do you actually need this work? Is there a good reason to prioritise the work and give yourselves a tight deadline?

If Christmas really is the deadline for you, do consider all the risks, and monitor progress closely.
Decide what are the critical points along the way and how you will handle any challenges to those milestones.

Have back up plan at the ready.

And if all else fails set a deadline for mid January and leave those truly important Christmas deadlines to Santa!

If this rings any bells with you and you are an SME based in Yorkshire give me a call (07976 395754) to chat about how I can help – and there is even some European funding to help pay for it!