5 Tips to Never Miss a Deadline Become the dependable, respectable professional who is admired for always being on time.

By Stephen Key

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Some goals feel so out of reach, figuring out how to achieve them seems impossible. But in reality, everything in life is accomplished exactly the same way: one step at a time.

One of the best things you can do for your professional reputation and sense of self is to set and meet deadlines. It's also the only way you'll reach your goals.

Deadlines stress us out, and even the best-laid plans get messy. But with a little effort, you can become a dependable, respectable professional who is admired for always being on time and achieving their dreams. Here's some tips to get you there:

Set goals and track your progress. I found that my team became much more productive when we started using a project tracker online. The tracker literally keeps us all on the same page -- we're able to view what is due and when, and who is responsible. What we accomplish every day and even every hour is easily logged. When a team member is falling behind, it's obvious -- which makes it easy for someone to jump in and lend a hand. And when a team member achieves an objective, we celebrate together, too.

Related: The Single Most Important Habit of Successful Entrepreneurs

Have a Plan B, and even better, a Plan C. Surprises, setbacks and roadblocks are inevitable. You may not know where they're coming from, but trust me: Things will go wrong -- they always do. So think about alternatives and backups before you even get started. If you create options for yourself, you will have less stress. If you're embarking upon a new project, there's only so much you can learn on your own. Reach out to a mentor and ask, "What should I be aware of? What could go wrong?" Their advice will save you time and money.

Give yourself some cushion. It's important to be realistic about how quickly you can accomplish a task. Do yourself a favor and factor in a little more time than you think you need when you begin setting deadlines. You already know that things could get off track! If you're unsure about how much time you really need to budget, reach out to someone with experience. It's tempting to overpromise and try to be Superman, but I guarantee that your colleagues would rather you just not be late. If you don't end up needing the extra time you factored in, you may even make a deadline early, and that's sure to impress.

Related: 3 Factors That Can Make or Break Your Productivity

Set explicit expectations. Time and time again, I'm reminded that other people have different ideas about what constitutes timeliness. I've learned it's best to establish very clear expectations with the people you work with -- ideally in writing.

This is especially true if you hire an outside contractor to work with you. Does he or she know what is expected of them? Make sure. It's best to check in regularly, too. If there are going to be any issues about him or her meeting a deadline, you'd rather know about it earlier than later, so you can adjust your plans. If you send an email, confirm he or she received it. Don't hesitate to get on the phone. We all need people to help us achieve our goals.

Be a leader. When things go awry, keep your cool. Others will follow your lead. Let's be real: Playing the blame game never does any good. Collect yourself, and focus on keeping morale high. How can you get back on track? You already know that it's inevitable that you're going to be surprised by something, so there's no need to let it derail you. And on that note, if you have made a mistake, I think it's best to own up to it directly and succinctly. We're all human. It's not the end of the world -- really. The sooner you let go, the more quickly you'll be able to move on.

Use these tips to start reaching your goals, one deadline at a time.

Related: How to Become an Expert in an Hour

Stephen Key

Co-Founder of inventRight; Author of One Simple Idea Series

Stephen Key is an inventor, IP strategist, author, speaker and co-founder of inventRight, LLC, a Glenbrook, Nevada-based company that helps inventors design, patent and license their ideas for new products.

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