When there are looming deadlines and the world is closing in on you, the question to ask yourself is: Should speed trump quality?
In a rush to get work done and meet deadlines, often enough we decide to let speed take priority over delivering quality work. While this may be acceptable for some kinds of tasks, this is not okay when it comes to submitting deliverables.
What do I mean by deliverables? Any work you do for a client has items you need to deliver to a client. It could be preparing a presentation, working on financial models or the strategy for a marketing campaign. This the reason the client has come to you. So, the question I have to ask myself when submitting a deliverable…. Is it my best work?
People tend to think that because I’m not part of a large organization, I don’t have to navigate bureaucracies and hence, the speed with which I work should be faster. People also seem to think that working as a freelancer means flexible timing and plenty of free time. Far from it!
The truth is quality work takes time whether you’re working alone or not, whether you have flexible timing or not.
As an independent consultant, what differentiates me is the quality of my work. Rushing to complete something never ends up in quality work. Either the product looks rushed or I make mistakes. While people may be able to overlook minor typos, they certainly cannot overlook errors in a financial model. I made a list of all the items that ends up causing me to rush my work and I’m actively trying to avoid them. Here’s what they are.
How to deliver quality work without rushing
1. Start early; don’t procrastinate
I am so guilty of this. I procrastinate so much just because I feel that the work has to be perfect and then I put it off. It’s paradoxical really. The intention is to deliver top quality work. But, the need for perfection causes you to delay starting and then, you end up rushing toward the deadline. The result is poor quality work.
I keep repeating the mantra of progress over perfection. Trying my level best to start with my task as early as possible so I can actually get to that perfect result.
2. Don’t overpromise and underdeliver
Another major issue I’ve faced in the past was to overpromise and underdeliver. In my eagerness to grow, I always took on more tasks than I could handle and end up setting unrealistic deadlines. Again, I thought speed was of the essence and forcing myself to adhere to a sooner deadline would cause me to churn out the work. It was an epic fail and I started to get delayed on every project or task that I undertook giving me a really negative image.
My work quality suffered, I got overwhelmed and burnt out. After two years of living this way, I decided to stop for the sake of my sanity and my work quality.
3. Ask for more time and always keep stakeholders updated
This is closely tied to the previous point of setting unrealistic deadlines. A good rule of thumb is to add an extra 10% time to the deadline. However, sometimes, even if you do think you have set an achievable deadline with the 10% rule, there can still be unavoidable delays. It happens! But how you handle the situation is important.
As soon as you realize the situation, inform your manager, client or any other stakeholders you’re working with. It’s shouldn’t be a last-minute surprise to anyone that the project or work will be delayed. It’s better to ask for more time early on instead of seeming irresponsible later.
I’m still working on these issues myself. It’s not always easy to break bad habits but I’m trying one day at a time. I remind myself that this is what makes me better. While speed is definitely important, I don’t think work quality should be compromised where it really matters.