Someone once claimed (the internet says it’s Castaneda not the Buddha) that the trouble is that we think we have time. Some of us are more relaxed with time than we should dare perhaps, but also many of us are quite anxious and can’t help but feel that there’s not enough time. Why am I getting philosophical when talking about deadlines? Well, time is key when looking at deadlines – we either take it for granted or, more often than not, get really stressed over it. Neither is quite the way to go – you don’t want to procrastinate, but you also don’t want to be a nervous wreck. Why not take the best from both opposites – try to relax and not panic, but remain aware that time shouldn’t be wasted and act instead of procrastinating.
Just looking at the word deadline makes us queasy. I mean, come on, it has the word DEAD in it! But in all seriousness, we all probably react the same way and that’s okay. The key is to let this feeling sink in – it will at least make you alert enough to start thinking how you will make the deadline. The little nagging feeling you get at first can actually be put to good use, propelling you into action immediately, dispelling any anxiety that may set in by just worrying how you’ll get things done. So, let’s explore the strategies to consider when faced with deadlines.
Take Back Control
To feel a bit stressed is okay, but don’t let it take over. The best way to take control back is to act. Time is usually the one variable most of us can’t change. Deadlines are deadlines, and often we’re not the ones who set them. This is where working backwards from due dates is crucial. Start a spreadsheet, and mark down when each project or task on your plate needs to be finished. Then work backwards to the present day, taking into account everything, each specific to-do that needs to be done and how long it takes to complete. The list that you get, is a good indicator of what your priorities are, what you should be working on right now, what you should work on next, and perhaps most importantly, what you should get help with.
Break it Down
One of the useful things you can do to help yourself is to take a look at the bigger picture, the vastness of the task at hand, and break it down into smaller, more manageable mini tasks. Again, use a spreadsheet and make a little deadline for each mini task. Make them all as important as the overall deadline itself. This way, you’ll stay focused on the work in all its nuances and not distracted by random thoughts on how you’ll manage this or that – you already took into account everything you’re supposed to do, step by step, and allotted a specific time frame to each step – no need to be all over the place and disorganized. Also, whenever you make the mini deadline you set up for yourself, reward yourself! Have a nice dinner, buy something new or go out. It’s a nice way to motivate yourself and get each step done the way you planned it.
All of the above is not of much use if you don’t realistically take into account your working habits, how you manage time, how you work under pressure and so on. Maybe you get overwhelmed by the time factor involved – try to organize your work so you’re doing your most productive tasks during your best hours and for the other 80% of your time, deal with the easier tasks. Don’t shy away from asking for help or advice from other colleagues if you are too self-sufficient, there’s always something new to learn. If you are a perfectionist make sure you know what is more important to your superiors – quality or being on time. For more help, have a look here.
In the end, know that there’s something positive even about deadlines – they can sure keep us on our toes! Use them as the ultimate inspiration, challenge yourself – you know what they say – nothing makes us more productive than the last moment.