Usually there are posts and books (a great one though – “The Deadline: A Novel About Project Management”) about managing deadlines, however this post will be about setting them – even for yourself.
Are you nuts? Why should I willingly determine a deadline if there is no pressure from outside?
If you happen to be one of the more luckier people out there who don’t get stuck with deadlines from outside consider yourself still in the same boat. The answer is simple – there are always time limits. If someone says otherwise, slap them. A-l-w-a-y-s, meaning at any given point of time there is someone who will ask you after a few weeks/months/years
WHY THE HECK ISN’T DONE YET???!!
And believe me, you want to avoid that situation at any cost. So if you’re working in a tiny-shiny-fancy-nancy startup, realize – they will ask you. And sooner you get your project organized the better.
If nobody provides you any tools, information or cooperation at all, remember – where there’s a will, there’s a way. At the end of the day they paying you exactly for it – for you getting things done regardless of the “how”. So my advice – get yourself a few sheets of paper and a pencil, start a prototype, draw a silly face, a cartoon, then try to write down your project’s goal. Can it fit in one sentence? No? Think again. Eat. Sleep. Rave. Repeat. Try to think what components is the project made of – are there reocurring modules? Can you extract some pages?
Decomposition is the keyword
Work top down, from goals to tasks which can be estimated. This estimation gives you your ace card. The more time you got the deeper you should get, meaning if you have just a vague goal you could guess it as 5 months or 5 years, if you have 100 tasks each guessed by 4 hours, you get 400 hours, 200 working days meaning somewhat 8.5 months. Having such a value will give you a much better situation because it’s based on smaller estimations where even a 100% volatility won’t hurt much (the probability of having all 100 tasks estimated wrong by half is incredibly low).