What To Do When You’re Getting Beat Up By Deadlines

By Alyssa Gregory

first aidYou’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?

Reevaluate Priorities

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

  • Quest

    Lots of prayer helps a great deal. :o)

  • Warptweet

    Lots of prayer helps a great deal. :o)

    Attempting to communicate with an imaginary sky diety will only waste time, and is possibly the least effective thing you can ever do to complete your task on time.

  • uni_boy

    Attempting to communicate with an imaginary sky diety will only waste time, and is possibly the least effective thing you can ever do to complete your task on time.

    Don’t knock it until you try it. I’m not a religious person, but whatever gives you the strength to get your groove back on, I’m all for.

    Besides, a lot of things depend on forces we can’t understand, like the stock market, or Charlie Sheen’s success with beautiful women.

  • LOL @uni_boy

    I’ll throw “go without sleep for a night” and “work weekends” into the mix. These are not necessarily good advice, nor are they sustainable, strategic solutions to consistently hit that looming deadline. But if you’re up against it, sometimes pulling a stupidly late night can get you through. I don’t recommend it on a regular basis, but it has to be on the table when assessing your options.

  • Doh, I just read Alyssa’s opening paragraph about “consecutive all-nighters”. Well, yes, if you’re that stuck, my advice won’t be much help… :-)

  • Lee Newell

    How about freelancing work out?

  • A little sleep, a little eat, Plenty work…
    this solves the problem faster!

  • BN

    With all due respect: Screw that!

    There’s more to life than work. If you chose to expel the kids, you’ve made the wrong choice.

  • Jared O’Toole

    Get rid of distractions! There are always little things that through people off all day long they may not even realize. Before you go out and complain about your deadlines make sure your putting %100 into getting them done.

  • uni_boy

    For me, web work – like a due-next-day essay – benefits from a Zen mentality: I remove all distractions, don’t answer my phone, get a ton of takeout pizza, and get into the zone.

    Man, I get a lot done when I’m in a quiet, focused headspace. The best place is somewhere where there is almost no sound. A basement, a uni campus at night – very productive.

    Five hours in that frame of mind is worth three days when you’re distracted by kids, co-workers, even traffic going by.

    That’s how it works for me, and I suspect for others.

  • Jonas

    Hey, if you need to trow the kids out together with the dog – that means you have issues. Work should never be allowed to disrupt your parenting life, this means you are not mentally ready to be a parent or you work for a fascist employer. I think you have to rise questions for yourself, what really are the priorities in your life.

  • green-mamba

    Hey, we all have to work to eat and most of us work long and hard hours to do it. If you work from home your kids will have to realise that mommy (or daddy) is there but they are not really available to play or bug. Lots of other parents work away from home and kids have to deal with that. If you have to get the kids out of the house to complete a deadline, it is not the end of the world for the kids and does not necessarily mean that you are a bad parent.

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