How to Make a Timeline to Meet a Deadline


Deadlines often loom in the distance as a reminder of all the work you have left to do. Timelines help to break down a task to ensure that you meet your deadline. Whether you're working on a personal goal such as weight loss or a professional goal such as finishing a big project, the same principles apply to using a timeline. The visual reminder of a timeline is a motivating factor by itself, which, when coupled with a strategic plan to accomplish the end goal, can help you to meet deadlines easily.

Things You'll Need

  • Calendar
  • Determine when the project is due or when the goal must be accomplished by you. This is your end point on the timeline. Calculate how long you have from the current date until the deadline arrives.

  • Write down specifically what needs to be done by the deadline--the end goal or result. For example, a teacher might need to have all report cards filled out with comments and supporting examples by the first day of conferences. Writing down the specific end result helps you to plan the specific steps to achieve the goals.

  • Divide the goal into logical steps. Think about what individual actions you need to take in order to get to the end result you defined. Using the previous example, the steps might be to total homework and test scores to calculate a grade, write a set number of comments on each report card, sort through sample work to share with parents and create a folder to hold the materials for each student.

  • Estimate how much time each step will take to complete. Use prior experience or your knowledge of the amount of work involved in each step. Write the time needed next to each step.

  • Add up your time estimates to determine if the total time needed fits within the actual amount of time you have left. If not, adjust the time lengths for each step as necessary to fit the timeline.

  • Look at the calendar to calculate the exact date each step is due. Use your time estimates to determine the dates. If step one will take you one week, write down the date one week away next to that step. Continue figuring the date for each step along the timeline.

  • Add the due dates for each step to your online calendar, PDA or other system you use for your scheduling. Also keep a hard copy of the timeline posted somewhere that you can see it often as a visual reminder.

  • Monitor your progress on each smaller step and toward the end goal at regular intervals. Make any adjustments to the timeline as necessary if you fall behind or get ahead of the estimated due dates.

Tips & Warnings

  • When a due date is predetermined for you, it can be helpful to work backwards from the date of the end goal to see how you may have to adjust the time needed for each step.
  • With larger projects, add additional time (if possible) to allow for any unforeseen problems that may arise or in case a particular step takes longer than you planned.

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