What Makes a Deadline Unrealistic Vs Realistic?

Published on 29/09/2021

We know that deadlines need to be realistic in order for them to actually be met. Otherwise, the whole situation simply causes stress and anxiety. 

However, what makes a deadline realistic and what makes it unrealistic? What criteria need to be met to ensure that the task can be done without causing undue distress to the person who is tasked with undertaking it?

First, let’s talk about why it’s vital to make sure that a deadline is actually do-able. The first reason is obvious, if the deadline isn’t realistic then it’s not going to be done on time. Even if by some miracle it is completed on time, it’s likely to be of a lower standard then before because the person trying to hit the deadline is rushing and not paying as much attention as a result. Mistakes can happen, which then creates an even bigger problem. 

Check out this video which talks about how to deal with unrealistic expectations in the workplace, including deadlines that are simply unrealistic. 

A realistic deadline has the following criteria:

  • It is possible to complete the deadline, even if it is a little tight
  • It can be completed by one person, or can be split into smaller segments and given to several people to complete 
  • The task is clear and can be understood by the person/people doing it
  • It is possible to complete the task without rushing and creating mistakes 

On the other hand, an unrealistic deadline would require mountains to be moved to hit the required date. If it’s extremely tight, it is still classed as unrealistic. That’s because to be able to hit the deadline, a person would need to rush, probably make mistakes, and cannot possibly concentrate on the task fully. 

Managers need to be sure that when they have a strict deadline that needs to be met, they don’t just give the whole task to one person and expect them to be able to complete it easily. In that case, it can be split into smaller tasks and given to a team to work on together. 

Expecting employees to work miracles and finish tasks in an amount of time that just isn’t possible, will only cause workplace stress and cause major discord in the office. Morale will drop, especially if one person is tasked with the job and everyone else is happily getting on with their regular work. 

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