Most workers, when given an assignment, have a vision in their mind as to what the assignment requires and what the completed result will look like. Unfortunately, their vision is rarely the same vision that their boss had in mind when they made the assignment. The employee's vision usually includes more of the type of work they prefer to do, and less of the type of work they don't like to do. Few workers ever take the time to completely understand the requirements of an assignment.
At Motorola, I worked on a project that was getting behind schedule and over budget. At a project meeting, the boss asked us to not embellish our assignments with all kinds of extras. He said "Just meet the requirements". After that meeting, every time I received an assignment I stopped and thought, "Exactly what are the requirements for this assignment?" Stopping to consider the requirements of an assignment has served me well through the years - including getting me through college.
When you get an assignment at work, try to extract from your bosses mind exactly what their vision of the results should be and what steps they would expect you to take to reach those results. Immediately as you receive the assignment, you should ask all your questions. Don't come back days later to ask a question that indicates that you didn't understand the assignment in the first place and that you haven't made any progress on the assignment.
Some questions that you should ask is exactly the results of the completed assignment should look like, and ask the boss what steps they feel you should take to work on the assignment. Don't worry about asking stupid questions, because if you come back to ask those same questions a few days later, or you screw up the assignment, you will look much more stupid.
One important thing to consider is: what are your bosses standards for quality? Some bosses just want a quick and dirty job. Some bosses expect everything to be perfect. Many bosses SAY they just want a quick and dirty job, because they want quick results, but when they don't get perfect results, they complain. The solution is to determine the requirements of the assignment and just meet the requirements.
Many employees like to twist an assignment into something that involves more of the type of work they prefer to do. For example, an employee that likes to do creative art work might embellish their work assignment with art. They figure the boss will give them credit for the extra effort. Unfortunately, in the bosses mind, you wasted company resources on something that does not generate a return on investment.
Furthermore, while these employees are wasting company resources, they're usually leaving incomplete a part of the assignment that is required for the company to generate a return on investment. Just meet the requirements of the assignment. Nothing more, nothing less.
Some bosses want to give an employee an assignment, and never be bothered with it again, until the assignment is completed properly. Some bosses want to be notified every minute about how the assignment is progressing. The only way to keep the later boss from constantly looking over your shoulder is gain their confidence that you'll complete the assignment properly and on schedule, and that you'll keep them apprised of your progress at reasonable intervals.
It's actually a good idea to communicate progress at reasonable intervals to the boss that doesn't want to be bothered with it, because in reality it gives them a good feeling that they are in control. The one thing you never want to do is surprise your boss with the news that you'll miss a deadline. If at any time during your assignment you run into a complication that could cause to miss the deadline, keep them apprised of the situation.
Sometimes a missed deadline on one assignment can cause a whole chain reaction of problems. If management is apprised of a possible missed deadline far enough in advance, they can usually make provisions to reduce or eliminate the negative consequences. But you usually will not have a problem meeting a deadline if you understand the requirements of an assignment and just meet the requirements.