You’ll know pretty quickly when your deadlines are getting the best of you. You may be juggling multiple projects or just starting to feel the burn of having too much on your plate. All of your productivity tricks are failing, and your project time estimates seem way off. You are facing deadlines that seem impossible to meet, even if you were able to pull off consecutive all-nighters, yet you still need to get the work done. What can you do?
For me, a lot of the stress and pressure that comes with the occasional deadline struggle is not usually work-related. We all have lives and responsibilities beyond work, and sometimes those things can be just as important as our professional responsibilities. But not always. Check your list, and take the time for an honest reevaluation about what is really important and what can be put off a few more days.
As business owners, we want to do it all and do it all right (and sometimes do it all right away), but we can only be effective and successful if we focus on the most important priorities and let the rest go. In the words of Sister Mary Claire, my sixth grade teacher, “Do what you can and can the rest.”
Get Rid of the Kids (and other distractions)
When deadlines are looming, there is no time to be pulled off track. Truthfully, you can’t afford to succumb to the daily distractions. So make a plan to get the kids out of the house for the day, take the phone off the hook, close your e-mail application, shut off the TV or music, and focus only on work.
If you are used to working through daily distractions, you will really benefit from even half a day of quiet work-only time. And to put yourself in an even better position, follow the next tip.
Make a Schedule
Once you have a day of silence and interruption-free work planned (or as much as possible), plan it out. Create a schedule that you can follow closely that includes work AND break time. Not only does having a schedule keep you moving forward, but you can make a plan that works for you. If you work best jumping from one project to the next and back again, schedule your time in 60-minute increments so you can go back and forth. If you know you need just a couple more hours to wrap up a project, plan that uninterrupted time. If you’re a slave to your to-do list, like I am, schedule time to do the quickest tasks first. The psychological impact of crossing things off immediately will motivate you to do more and lessen some of the pressure you feel.
Ask for an Extension
This is a last resort for me and something I rarely do, but if all else fails and you simply cannot meet the deadline successfully, you can always ask for an extension. One thing to keep in mind when asking for an extension is to give as much advance notice as possible. If it seems like you will miss the mark a week or two prior, bring it up then. It’s much better (for you and the client or colleague) than waiting until the 11th hour.
What would you add to this list? How do you fight back when your deadlines are beating you up?
Image credit: lcs9
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