What to Do When the Results You Need Aren't in Yet

Your deadline’s one week away and there’s no way you’re going to hit your goal. And it’s all because the results you need aren’t in yet—because of a client, or delayed data, or your own timeline being unrealistic.

Anyone who’s ever been about to miss a target or goal knows how much it sucks to inch closer and closer to that deadline—knowing they’re going to fail at what they set out to do (or more realistically what their boss asked them to do).

Before you panic, walk yourself through the following steps:

1. Determine How Much of the Stress Is Coming From You—and How Much Is Coming From Your Boss

You’re an incredibly motivated professional—and if I were to take a guess, there are times when you put a lot of pressure on yourself. When that happens, self-imposed deadlines start appearing on your to-do list, even though your manager has a much different idea in mind.

Take a deep breath and figure out where this deadline pressure’s coming from.

If it’s self-imposed, I’m going to suggest something radical: Give yourself a break. The only person who’s bearing down on you is, well, you. So if there isn’t a hard deadline, don’t feel the need to add extra pressure to your own to-do list.

But if you have a target from your company or your boss to hit, things aren’t quite as simple. That’s not to say you’re not working hard, but it does indicate that you need to continue reading…

2. Figure Out if There Are Any Changes You Can Make

I’ll be honest. Sometimes I think I’m trying everything possible to get the results I need—only to realize that I keep relying on the same tactics, with slightly different spins. Sound familiar? That’s why it’s important to take a minute to re-evaluate your methods and figure out if you can do things a little differently.

Maybe you need to re-organize your to-do list for this project (or if you’re completely disorganized, maybe it’s time to get organized, period). Maybe there’s a knowledge gap you didn’t know you have and you need to take a step back. Maybe you need to ask for help.

Whatever the case may be for you, be honest with yourself about how you can shift gears in order to get what you need.

3. Communicate What’s Going on to Everyone Involved

This part is often one of the most difficult for self-starters like you. Not only is it important to figure out what needs to change for your sake, but you also need to get everyone else it affects up to speed.

Call a meeting (or send an email) to the appropriate people and give them a status update. But wait—don’t approach this as a plea for an extension or additional help. Bring your adjusted timeline, and if relevant, proposed solutions as well.

Not only does it make it much easier for everyone else to chime in with suggestions, but it also shows them that even though you feel that you’re behind, you’re doing everything in your power to catch up as quickly as possible.

At some point, everyone faces the challenge of fighting through obstacles to hit a goal. Even though you’re good at your job, you’ll likely find yourself struggling to figure out why your progress has stalled. While you might not be seeing results as quickly as you (or your boss) would have liked, you can still totally rebound.

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About Richard Moy

Richard Moy
Richard Moy is a Content Marketing Writer at Stack Overflow. He has spent the majority of his career in talent management, including a stint as a full-cycle recruiter and hiring manager. In addition to the career advice he contributes to The Muse, he also writes test prep and higher education marketing content for The Economist. Say hi on Twitter @rich_moy.

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