4 Steps to Always Delivering Programming Projects On Time

Everyone has felt the pressure of running late on an important task: the stress of pulling an all-nighter, the fear of worrying about whether or not you’ll get it done, the frustration of needing to work fast and the trade-off of quality versus speed. This is the reality of doing creative work under deadline, the tension central to the kind of work we--as programmers, developers and other tech and knowledge workers--do: creativity takes space and time, but businesses need deliverables. Our work requires us to rest, but our bosses need things quickly. We need time to check out work and ensure its quality is high, but sometimes we get distracted, or tired, or take breaks which cut into the time we have to get things done. And the result can be late deliverables, which can slow down an entire business, or agile workflow, and upset our teammates and even put our careers at risk.

So the question this blog tries to answer is: how do we set up our work so that we can meet the deadlines every time, while also producing work of the highest quality? How can we ensure we do the best possible work, and we do it on time--without giving up our personal health, mental health, or professional relationships in the process? 

Here are our 5 top tips for always delivering programming projects on time, every time:

1. Be honest about how much time you need

Whenever you’re given a new project and a looming deadline, the first (and possibly most) important thing to do is to be clear and honest about how long you think this task or project will take. 

This is easier if you have previous experience doing similar work -- so if you’re building part of an app, and it’s the twentieth time you’ve done this, great. You can probably estimate with confidence how long it's going to take. So do so. And don’t assume you’ll be quicker just because you want to be. Give yourself the grace of all the time you’ll actually need, with scheduled breaks, rest, and time to check your work.

If you’ve never done this kind of project or task before, reach out to others at your company or in your community who have. Ask them how much time they’d expect the work to take, and ask them why (if it’s because they have experience, make sure you pad your work time with an extra 5-10% to account for your lack of experience).

And remember: it’s always better to turn in your work early, than late. So be generous with yourself. Don’t ask for an endless runway (we all know deadlines have the effect of helping us complete our projects as well!), but give yourself enough time to reduce extra pressure and stress, as this won’t help you do well, and it will increase the risk of turning in your work late.

2. Break the work into manageable pieces

The next step to ensuring you’re able to do good work and do it on time is to arrange your project so that it can be completed in short, actionable bursts. Programming work is a marathon, not a spring. So treat it as such. 

What are the parts you need to do first? What are the “low hanging fruit” of the project? Break those pieces off and ensure they get finished first. What are the parts that you anticipate giving you trouble, or needing input from others? Set those aside and schedule the calls, research, or other touchpoints you’ll need in order to complete those efficiently.

One thing we can often do to help ourselves feel more capable when dealing with a large project is to avoid seeing it as one insurmountable mass of work. If you told me I needed to write an entire novel, I’d almost certainly feel overwhelmed -- but if you told me to write one sentence a day, that would feel a lot more feasible, approachable, and empowering.

So what are the “page a day” pieces of your project? List them out -- and don’t be afraid to break them down yet again into even smaller and more amenable pieces.  

3. Set clear and feasible goals

Once you have your project broken down into many smaller pieces, go back to stage #1, but now do so for each of those small pieces. If you’re writing a “page a day” -- how much of your day needs to be spent on the opening, on the middle, on the end, on spell check, on asking for feedback? And how many pages will you need, and is there a point in the project when you might need to do more than one page, or fewer, in order to meet your deadline?

You’re not going to be able to accurately predict the exact amount of time each piece will need, but you can be clear and reasonable to the degree possible, and that clarity will give you an ongoing sense of your progress-to-goal. Then, you'll be able to notice if you’re falling behind much sooner than if you let everything pile up, or if you save all the big, scary tasks for the end. Or if you make assumptions about how long different parts will take you you’ll be able to realize if those assumptions were wrong before it’s too late.

Remember, the goal isn’t to be as fast as possible, it’s to find a healthy balance between speed and quality. Much like a marathon runner, your goal is to run a consistent mile, not the quickest mile ever. Setting clear and reasonable goals allows you to stay on pace, and gives you lots of small milestones along the way to provide a sense of accomplishment and a feeling of momentum, so the road to turning in your work on time is paved with small successes, each giving you a burst of energy and pride along the way.

4. Stay in touch with your team and/or manager

As the saying goes, “The best-laid plans of mice and men often go awry.” Things are bound to go wrong, especially with technology and code. Something you’ve written might not come out as smoothly as you’d hope. A new piece of programming you’re hoping will take a day may take a week--or more. That’s just the reality of the work we do. Don’t be frustrated by this, or surprised by it: be prepared for it.

It’s important that you keep in communication with your team and your manager as you work through the project, so deadlines can be extended, or help can be offered, if (and when) these issues come up. Remember: your deadline won’t be missed if you’ve given your manager enough warning that they can help you change the deadline! 

Likewise, if you’re stuck on something and your team can help you get unstuck, you can likely avoid many significant delays down the line. But in order to receive this help, you need to be in communication with your team. In short: communication is key. Speak up. Don’t be a lone wolf -- be a chatty one! 

Are You Ready to Turn in On-Time Projects?

Working in a creative industry can be challenging, but it’s also the most fulfilling work around. We hope these four simple steps help you stay on top of your work and stay successful both as a programmer and a professional in 2022. 

And if you’re interested in learning from or working with the top 3% of developer talent in all of Latin America, get in touch with Jobsity! We’ve been in the game as long as anyone, and are specialists in ensuring programming projects are delivered on time and with the highest quality. And we do it while having a good time and learning a lot. 

Interested in learning more? Or seeing how well Jobsity’s outsourced developers can integrate into the culture at your company? Don’t hesitate to reach out. We’re standing by and always eager to talk about how we hire, develop, and delegate to the top 3% of tech talent in Latin America.

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