Work back to stay on track!

Kathy West - Manager


You have another production deadline looming and have no idea how you are going to get there from here. It seemed like you had lots of time but it crept up on you again and you just can’t be late.  You may not be able to avoid a couple of all nighters this time, but you can reduce the stress of last minute rushed work for your next project.

“Productivity is never an accident. It is always the result of a commitment to excellence, intelligent planning, and focused effort.” ~ Paul J. Meyer

Work Back to Stay on Track!

You already know your deadline and the end result that you need for success, so let’s make a reliable plan for how to get to the goal on time. 

(1) Start by making a detailed list of tasks/steps

Include production, print, delivery – everything you can think of – not just the work that you personally need to do but what you need from others on your team and from external sources.

(2) Define how much time is needed for each task/step [days/hours] 

  • Be sure to ask your agency for production and/or print timelines, etc.
    [and believe them, they are experienced at this sort of thing!] 
  • Get input from your team members and others involved regarding how much time they realistically need for each task

(3) Now get your calendar and work backwards

Start at your end date and add each task – plotting the last one first and working backwards so that you end with the first task. When you have everything spaced out, based on the timeframes assigned to each, you will have determined when you need to start and where you need to be at the end of each week. 

  • Take into account any upcoming holidays
  • Take into account any conflicts your team, agency, or vendors have noted to you 
    [meetings, events, other deadlines]
  • Rely on your experience from past projects and the experience of those you are working with and add in time for patterns you may have previously run into
  • Most important - build in some flex room – remember you can not predict the future and something will inevitably come up!


"There cannot be a crisis next week. My schedule is already full.”  Henry A. Kissinger

You now know realistically when you need to start and you have a clear plan to get from here to there – so commit to your plan and stick to it.

Don’t expect perfection from yourself or others and remember that there will always be things you can’t control but working back will help you stay on track! It will reduce your worry and get you to your goal on time. You’re also building a plan for next time. It will get easier each time you do it. With a little extra planning now you’ll be able to handle whatever comes along.