5 Easy Tips for Project Deadline Management as a Consultant

Matthew Corey

Updated: November 9, 2023
June 17, 2019
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project deadline management

Last updated March 24th, 2023

As a consultant, managing tight deadlines can be challenging. In order to stay on top of projects and deliver great work on time and on budget, it’s important to have a plan for keeping project teams organized and on schedule. 

Without some help, arriving at consulting deadlines on time can get complicated, fast. It isn’t an easy problem to overcome, but every consultant draws from a broad and useful set of planning tools, especially when it comes to deadlines. Here are 5 tips to help you improve project deadline management and keep your consulting business running smoothly.

Prioritize Tasks Based on Urgency and Project Deadlines

Assessing the priority of tasks is essential for successful project deadline management. Putting priority on the most important project tasks based on their due dates will ensure you’re focusing energy on what matters most. 

Even before you check your email at work each morning, come up with a project plan for doing the top-level tasks that you need to complete, and stick to it. When you make a schedule for the workday, whether it’s by hand or on a digital calendar, all you have to do is to write down the highest-priority tasks. That’s all. Keep it simple, and you’ll assure that everything gets done.

Here’s the secret: schedule according to priority, so you’re always working on what’s most important to you and your clients. According to productivity blogger Paul Minors, “When you know that you have a set amount of scheduled time to do something, it allows you to stay focused so you can get everything done within a specific time.”

That’s such an easy way for more productive project management, especially for contractors, whose time is divided and they work to figure out how to manage multiple projects with competing deadlines.

psa benchmark project deadlines

Estimate Task Time Frames and Plan Ahead

You shouldn’t put yourself in a situation where you’re just reacting to work that clients send your way. If you wait to react to the work that other people send you, rather than setting your own goals for work every day, then you’re never really working at your best and can fail to meet your objectives. That’s how work starts to pile up, and a two-hour project can turn into an eight-hour project, in no time at all.

Instead, before you start work each day, estimate the time it will take for each task to plan ahead. Make a schedule that will give you more than enough time to devote all the necessary attention to your clients, as well as accommodate any unexpected hiccups. For example, if you know a task will take about 90 minutes, schedule a two-hour block of time to guarantee you’ll be able to give the project your undivided attention.

The idea is to plan everything out in multi-hour blocks, not just so you can devote all your attention to just one project, but also so you won’t get distracted from what’s most important on the day. For consultants, block scheduling helps you keep an eye on the little picture, as well as the big picture, while ensuring that client expectations are met and potential scope creep is minimized. 

Break the Project into Sub-Tasks and Do One Task at a Time to Meet Consulting Deadlines

To be more productive, you have to fight against distractions. When some consultants get busy, they try to avoid distractions by multitasking their client commitments, as if they could do lots of things at once without any problems. Contrary to what some think, multitasking won’t ever solve the problem of being over-committed your clients, and it may in fact make your job worse.

When starting a new project, try to break it down into smaller sub-tasks. By doing this, you’ll be able to better execute on and/or delegate tasks and track progress along the way. This can help you identify where things are falling behind earlier in the consulting project timeline so that you can make adjustments accordingly.

When you’re planning out your workday, commit to doing just one task at a time, no matter what distractions come your way―and they will. Just as you schedule time to complete one task, you should block-off some time for responding to the things that distract you, no matter if it’s emails, phone calls, or anything else. 

Here’s a secret: make time for everything important, and give everything its time, even if the task is unimportant. If something must be done as soon as possible, then make time to do that task, but also make time in your schedule to work on what is unimportant, distracting, or easy to accomplish. That’s it: work on the right thing at the best time for it.

project deadline management infographic

Communicate With Clients and Set Expectations

Once you have a schedule and you’ve added it to your high-priority tasks, then you have to communicate it to the appropriate stakeholders. It is important to communicate any timelines and expectations with clients at the beginning of a project. This will allow them to plan and set realistic project deadlines for the on-time completion of projects and make sure they’re aware of all roles and responsibilities. 

Share your schedule to let them know when you’ll be working on which task. Be as transparent as possible, and you will see that the stakeholders are much better-informed about what to expect from you, and when to expect it. 

Your clients matter most, so work with them to set the priorities for your work, and update them with your progress as the deadline approaches. If there are any unforeseen problems, whether on your end or your clients’ end, then you have an open channel to discuss the next steps.

Here’s another secret: be completely transparent when it comes to sharing information with clients, no matter if it’s about consulting deadlines, project deliverables, your expectations, or your role as a consultant. Put everything on the table, and let your client sort out what’s most important to them. Every client has different expectations, and your consulting reputation is important, so keep your lines of communication open and always busy.

There isn’t a shortcut for meeting deadlines in the workplace for your clients, but if you put in the time to make a schedule, to commit to it each day, and to communicate your status with stakeholders and clients, then you’ll always meet important deadlines. Besides, if it looks like you might miss a deadline, you always have an open line of communication with clients who trust you.

Use Project Deadline Management Tools to Streamline Workflows

Project management software and PSA project management tools (professional services automation) can help consulting firms stay on track with project deadlines and team communication by centralizing projects in one system. Project management software can keep projects running smoothly and more effectively by helping to plan, monitor, and complete tasks on schedule.

PSA project management, or PSA software, takes tracking project success and deadlines a step further. While PSA software includes basic project management features such as project and task management and resource allocations for deadline management, it’s also layered with more advanced features to manage and improve the overall operational efficiency of a consulting business. Those additional capabilities include time and expense tracking, budgeting, invoicing, and business intelligence reporting. 

Summary

Consultants often face tight deadlines, making project management a challenge. To improve project deadline management and keep consulting businesses running smoothly, there are 5 tips to keep in mind:

  1. Prioritize tasks based on urgency and deadlines
  2. Estimate task time frames and plan ahead
  3. Break the project into sub-tasks
  4. Communicate with clients and set expectations
  5. Use online tools to streamline workflows

By following these tips, consultants will be able to manage project deadlines more effectively, improve productivity, and deliver more quality work on time and on budget.

If you’re struggling with managing tight project deadlines and want to streamline your consulting business, book a demo to see how PSA software can help you stay on top of your projects and deliver great work on time and on budget. 

psa 101 meeting deadlines

Frequently Asked Questions About Project Deadline Management

What is deadline management?

Project deadline management is the process of effectively managing project tasks and timelines to ensure that projects are completed on time and on budget.

How do you meet project deadlines?

Here are 5 tips for improving project deadline management:

  1. Prioritize tasks based on urgency and deadlines
  2. Estimate task time frames and plan ahead
  3. Break the project into sub-tasks
  4. Communicate with clients and set expectations
  5. Use online tools to streamline workflows

Why is project deadline management important?

Effective project deadline management is essential for meeting client expectations, controlling budgets, managing time, prioritizing tasks, and minimizing risks.

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