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This question already has an answer here:

I have been asked to give a task due date, just wondering if it's polite and formal to answer:

I am currently working on this. I will put forth my best effort and expect to have it done by [date]. hope that works for you.

Does this sound like a reasonable response?

marked as duplicate by Erik, Dukeling, gnat, Jim G., Rory Alsop Mar 11 '18 at 19:13

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  • Who is asking? An end-user, a client, a coworker, a direct manager? The answer will vary between them. – Erik Mar 11 '18 at 6:39
  • You're overthinking this. They are asking for a date, so the date you give is much more important than the words you surround the date with. Unless you use the surrounding words to justify the date. – Dukeling Mar 11 '18 at 7:24
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Short answer: The best way to answer the question about a due date is to take the time to really be sure with your estimate and manage upwards.

Be sure of the delivery date you are offering

I don't know if you have done this already or how large the task is, but I always (and I mean ALWAYS) take the following steps when someone asks me "When?":

  • Work out what the component parts are of the job
  • How long does each component part take?
  • Identify any possible dependencies from other parties
  • Give yourself room to be wrong

Flag any delays well before the due date

The absolute worst possible thing you can do is to get to the due date and be not finished. Flag potential delays as soon as you possibly can. This way key stake holders can make a decision to either increase the time or prioritise scope.

By virtue of your detailed estimation in the first step, you can then also give accurate estimates for any items that have been kept in scope.

So how do you answer?

Once I have done the preceding steps (and only if I have), I would respond with something like:

I have estimated that I can have Task A done by [date]. To ensure this date I need to ensure that Bob does X by [date 1] and Fran does Y by [date 2]. Can you please prioritise functionality in case there are any unforeseen issues, and I will flag any issues if as soon as encountered.

This way you aren't giving a hoped-for "I will try", you are giving a professional, confident response that pushes back to the manager any decisions on scope or timing.

If the scope is fluid (which it should never be, but software requirements change and some managers just don't manage very well), and you can't give a solid estimate then respond with something like:

Due to the possible variability in the scope, I will try to have Task A done by [date]. This is dependent on if any other details become apparent as I commence design and development. If the due date can't be met I will raise as soon as possible so we can either extend the date or limit the scope.

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I like to refer to dates I'm "aiming" for. That's usually enough if you're trying to set expectations or the other person wants a general guideline. I try to get it to them before or at least for the dates I'm aiming for.

If they are really putting pressure on you for a certain date, make sure you ask them why. If you ask that question, it'll become clear if the asker is saying that just because that's how they've learned to get things done. That's very different from actual dependencies you might not be aware of that are relying on you doing your part in a certain timeframe.

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You need to know what this completion date is used for. Is it so your manager knows when you will be free for other work? Or is to invite customers and the press to demonstrate the new software? In other words, does the boss want your best estimate when you will be finished, or a 100% non-negotiable delivery date? (And be aware that some bosses don't understand the difference between a "best estimate" and a "guaranteed delivery date").

And when the boss asks, you don't just answer. If you think the work will take 5 days, then you need to work at least two hours on an estimate. If you think it takes four weeks, the estimate should take quite a while.

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The best way to answer (unless your job is an estimator) is to say that you're not as good at (the additional task of doing their job) being an estimator, therefore it should take about ... and give an estimate that's 125 to 150% of your quick guess, or ask for additional time to make a proper estimate.

If they agree then you've been granted a luxurious amount of extra time instead of doing extra work for free.

If they question your answer then say: "Well, what do you think?".


I worked at one place where the co-owner always asked when it was his job to know, and not use it as an excuse to interrupt. I always said double.

He always questioned it and I asked him to justify his response. Only took a half dozen times and he didn't come back for any reason. Ahhh, peace.


Don't get roped into being responsible for both the completion of the project and the date.

If you are told to finish something by a certain time it's fair to outline what result they should expect but when both ends are thrust upon you then you become the fallguy whom gets the others off the hook.

Estimates shouldn't be performed for free if they will incur considerable expense for you, nor should others expect it.

If it's another employee asking does the owner want you to take time off from your assignment to field random questions? If it's a customer (and your job is not "Estimator") you run a risk of being disciplined or fired.

If you estimate short they'll come early to check or shortly after expecting it finished - you'll certainly be in trouble and unlikely to gain an extension.

If you estimate a bit long and finish on time or early you should be praised if the work is good.

Underbidding can never help you in the long run.

If it's actually your job to estimate then you need to be more cautious about accuracy, since that is what you're paid for; still a small overestimate and offering a refund always goes over better than being late and asking for more money.

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    yes i also agree we we should estimate longer time to prevent any unexpected problems – user285979 Mar 13 '18 at 15:05

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