When agreeing deadlines, absolute clarity is essential: at the end of the meeting everyone needs to know exactly what they need to do by when. Arriving at deadlines which are acceptable for the individual team members often entails a process of negotiation. And that’s where this post comes in. It looks at some of the language you can use to get everyone on board and make sure you get everything done on time.

Promising action

If you’re asked for your assessment on how long you’ll need for a task, these phrases are useful:  

  • I can get that done by [date].
  • I’m confident that I can deliver [the translation] by [date].
  • I should be able to complete [the illustrations] by [date].
  • If everything goes to plan we’ll be able to [print the brochures] by [date].
  • Provided we get the illustrations on time, we’ll be able to [print the brochures] by [date].

Getting commitment

To ask team members when they can realistically complete the task you can ask:

  • When can you deliver [the translation]?
  • Based on your experience, what is a realistic date for [completing the translation]?
  • If we get you the extra resources you mentioned, can you [complete the illustrations] by [date]?
  • Do you think you can finish [the translation] by [date]?

Saying what you need

If you need commitment for a tight deadline, you can explain the reasons for the lack of time using these phrases, for example:

  • I know it’s tight, but we really need to …
  • The [translation] needs to be completed by [date], so that we can …
  • I realize everyone is very busy at the moment, but …

If the suggested deadline is unrealistic

When you have to point out that the suggested deadline is just too tight, you can soften the message using I’m afraid, I’m sorry or unfortunately. Then explain why and offer an alternative.

  • I’m afraid that’s completely unrealistic. We need [input from all our subsidiaries]. But we can definitely [provide the copy] by [date].
  • I’m very sorry, but the timeframe is just too tight. We need to allot more time for [the translation]. So [date] would be more realistic.
  • That’s very tight. So I’m afraid I can’t guarantee that we’ll meet the deadline, but we’ll do our very best.


By the way, from a language point of view there are two aspects that can cause problems:

Porträt Nicola Bartlett
Nicola Bartlett
I’ve been an English trainer for over 25 years, helping adults to get their message across in English – clearly and appropriately. Successful communication in English requires more than just a good knowledge of the language. An understanding of different mentalities and a feeling for the best approach are vital, too. » more