How to meet deadlines: 9 tips and tricks for busy creatives

Deadlines are no joke if you’re a creative. 

GIF Source: Giphy

The sleepless nights, the stress of finishing a job on time – we’ve all been there.

When you’ve got a deadline, the project is everywhere you turn, like a song you can’t get out of your head. 

But it doesn’t have to be like that. 

We’ve got some tricks up our sleeves that can help you easily meet deadlines. 

Let’s get right to it!

Table of contents

Why do deadlines exist in the first place?

Once upon a time, a team of web developers embarked on a project to create a website for a client. 

Without setting any clear deadlines. 

The team was excited to work on the project. Even better, the client seemed laid-back and easy-going, so everyone assumed deadlines weren’t necessary.

However, as the project progressed, chaos and confusion began to set in. 

Without due dates, the team lacked structure and accountability. Milestones were missed left and right. Soon, scope creep set in, and the team took on tasks that weren’t part of the original plan. Communication broke down, and the team became disorganized, unsure of what was expected.

In the end, the website was delivered, but it was far from perfect. The lack of deadlines had led to missed opportunities, wasted time, and a less-than-stellar final product. The client was disappointed, and the team was left feeling deflated and defeated.

☝️ This scenario is exactly why deadlines are essential in project management. 

They help provide structure and ensure everything runs smoothly. 

Why it’s important to meet deadlines

Imagine a work environment that had no deadlines.  You could pick up a task when you felt like it and submit it anytime. There’d be no anxiety or pressure from your team lead.

Wouldn’t life be so much easier?


Although this fantasy world might seem appealing at first, it wouldn’t be good for you or your company in the long run.

There would be none of the accountability or goal-setting that businesses need to grow. You’d just be going with the flow, and so would everyone around you. Imagine the bills piling up, but you only get paid when your team lead feels like it… 😳

Anyway, meeting deadlines ensures you can:

  • Complete projects and tasks on time.
  • Set clear goals.
  • Earn the respect of clients and stakeholders. 
  • Prove your credibility.
  • Discover issues early on. 
  • Be in sync with your team.

Now, deadlines have a bad reputation because people set unrealistic expectations for what can be accomplished in a brief period of time. Like giving a developer one week to create a website. 😬 

On the other hand, realistic deadlines make successful projects way more realizable.

Realistic vs. unrealistic deadlines

Realistic deadlines are established by considering available resources, project complexity, and possible setbacks.

Let’s say you’ve been tasked with creating an ad campaign for a product launch. 

After considering the specific time needed for market research, creative development and testing, and all other necessary steps to launch a new product line, you and the stakeholders conclude that it will take two months to get everything ready.

Now that’s a realistic deadline you can work with! 

An unrealistic deadline is always impossible to achieve when you take resources and project complexity into consideration. It’s often set by clients or managers who don’t understand the project’s scope. 

They might ask you to set up an e-commerce website with accessibility features in one week and to throw in a mobile app while you’re at it.

Unrealistic deadlines don’t consider the artistry creatives leverage when working. Trying to meet them will leave you drained. 

Always stick with realistic deadlines when taking on a new project. And if you need help meeting them, it’s time to develop new habits.

9 tips on meeting deadlines at work

If you’re having trouble meeting project deadlines, here are some helpful tips to incorporate into your workflow. 

Text-based graphic listing nine tips for busy creatives struggling to meet deadlines.

#1: Start as soon as possible

You’ve just secured a new design project where you promised the client it’d be ready in two weeks during the sales call.

Instead of getting to work, you watch videos of puppies and kittens. By the end of the day, you still haven’t opened up that creative brief—and now there’s even less time to ensure you understand what needs doing.

Unless you plan on outsourcing the project, there’s a good chance you’ll miss your deadline. If you’re going to meet it, you need to start ASAP. 

Before you begin a project, review the brief to ensure you understand everything. If something is unclear, ask questions. If you build a strong relationship, your client might refer you to their colleagues!

When you properly understand the project, split it up into smaller tasks.

#2: Break down big projects into manageable chunks

Most people enjoyed college because of the many opportunities it gave them to meet new people and have fun.

When it came to exams, you met two kinds of people.

There were the ‘crammers,’ AKA the people who waited until the last minute to study. By the time exams were over, they were exhausted from stress and lack of sleep. 

Other students began studying long before exams, devoting two to three hours daily so they were less tense and exhausted during the testing period.

Rather than approach a big project like the “crammers”—and reap all the stress and exhaustion as a result—it’s better to break down larger projects into small chunks. This way, the amount of work to be done no longer looks insurmountable. 

There’s enough time to complete tasks without feeling pressured. 

And because they understand the job, team members approach it with motivation.

Let’s say you get a project to design a new website for a Fortune 500 company. 

You can break it down into:

  • Discovery phase. Where you research the brand, its audience, and competitors. 
  • Wireframing phase. Creating layouts and structure of the website. 
  • Design phase. Including color schemes, typography, imagery, etc. 
  • Development phase. Coding the website using CSS, HTML, etc. 
  • Quality assurance phase. Product testing to verify that it’s functional and user-friendly.
  • Launch phase. Deploying the website after it’s been approved. 

After splitting the project into manageable chunks, assign important tasks to respective teammates so work can begin as soon as possible. 

#3: Prepare everything you need

In the words of French writer Antoine de Saint-Exupery, “A goal without a plan is just a wish.” 

But as you know, wishes are for fairies. 🧚

To avoid missed deadlines, consider what resources (materials and people) you’ll need to complete the project to prevent hiccups.

For example, when working on creative projects involving feedback loops, you’ll need a collaboration tool like to ensure everyone — stakeholders, clients, and teammates — is on the same page. 

The platform saves you time in the long run by helping you request and give feedback easily. Implement tools like these in your workflow to make your team as efficient as possible. 

#4: Prioritize action (over motion)

It’s the second day of work on a new project, and you’re ready to get started.

But just as you open your PC, your mind wanders. How should you approach the project? What are its biggest challenges? How should you begin?

Before you know it, it’s past midday, and you’ve only managed to open a new tab on your browser. 


If this sounds familiar, it’s time to prioritize action over motion. This means focusing on what needs to be done today rather than letting your mind wander toward what could happen in the future (or past).

Avoid “analysis paralysis” to meet deadlines.

If you’re feeling stuck, try one of these strategies:

  • Break down large projects into smaller chunks to prioritize and manage your work.
  • Set a specific amount of time for work and take breaks at intervals so you don’t lose focus. 
  • Start working by 9 a.m. for two hours, take a 30-minute break, then work another two hours.

#5: Avoid distractions

If you’re on a tight deadline and want to get the job done before the due date, then consider turning off notifications — social media, email, and maybe even coworkers. 😉 Anything that feeds procrastination.

This might mean not using smartphones when working or shutting the door to your workspace to avoid distractions. Studies show that people are less efficient and prone to making mistakes when juggling different things simultaneously. So, focus on one thing at a time rather than trying to multitask.

#6: Leave room for setbacks

Ever heard the phrase ‘to err is human?’

Mistakes can happen to anyone, whether you’re a professional with ten years of experience or a beginner. 

It’s important to plan for contingencies in advance. It would be a shame if miscommunication or a minor error were why your project wasn’t delivered on time.

How do you leave room for setbacks?

Set deadlines and ensure they’re shorter than the initial ones. So if you had one month for the project, plan to wrap it up in two to three weeks. 

If something unexpected occurs, you’ll have time to fix it.

#7: Don’t overcommit: It’s okay to say ‘no’

If you’ve been waiting for a sign to say no to more tasks outside of the project’s initial scope, this is it.  

You don’t always have to agree to more responsibilities just because you wanna please your clients.

It’s fine that you want to make them happy, but don’t let scope creep take over your project.

Remember: if you’re always tempted to say “yes,” just imagine how bad it will be for your credibility if you overcommit and scramble at the last minute.

It’s better to decline a task than do it badly.

A helpful flowchart advising not to take on non-urgent non-important requests regardless of the circumstances.

In the future, should you again be faced with choosing whether to take on additional work, simply refer back to this infographic

#8: Communication is key

Effective communication is important at every stage of the project, especially if you’re in a team. 

Build transparency into your processes.

For example, clear communication means that anyone who works on research should tell the rest of the team what they’re doing and when they think it will be finished.

The same goes for project management, design, and development. Don’t keep your team in the dark.

You should also assign tasks early so everyone can start working on time before the deadline approaches.

Everyone needs to stay in touch throughout a project, letting each other know what’s happening and how it affects them.

You can use asynchronous communication tools like Trello or Slack to share updates and follow up on progress. 

And with tools like, you can get feedback on projects from stakeholders, so everyone is on the same page.

#9: Take care of yourself

How do you take care of yourself when an important deadline is looming and the pressure is on?

If you push yourself so hard that your health, relationships, or work suffers as a result of unfinished projects and deadlines, then you might burn out without realizing it.

Simply put, you’ll be unable to meet the deadlines you desperately want to beat. 

A clear mind allows you to think deeply and be extremely productive. 

Here’s what you can do to take care of yourself when working on a project:

  • Get enough sleep every night. Sleep is underrated, and the gurus on YouTube aren’t helping. Be wary of “self-made entrepreneurs” who claim successful people don’t sleep more than five hours a day—you need at least 7 to 8 hours of rest each night to be productive.
  • Eat healthy. Avoid junk foods and stick to meals that can help you focus and keep your energy levels high. Try whole grains, fruits, lean proteins, etc. 
  • Drink water. Staying hydrated can help you stay alert and focused. 
  • Take short breaks. Walk around the block, stretch your legs, or do something else that will distract you for ten or fifteen minutes.
  • Define your work hours. Establish a set schedule for working and stick to it.

It’s always good to do something unrelated to work every day. This’ll help you focus clearly and get your creative juices flowing. 


Submitting projects on time is a battle every creative fights to win. 

Now, you’re even more equipped with tricks you can deploy in your ‘war’kflow. 

GIF Source: Giphy

Before you march into battle, there’s one more thing…

Be more efficient 

Ready to achieve your project goals and start meeting deadlines? 

The first step is to get your bright ideas approved so you can start as soon as possible. 

Having a snappy way to receive feedback on your designs and creative work is a surefire way to streamline your workflow and increase efficiency. Fortunately, has created a review system that is as snappy as it gets. Try it now for free!