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Living With Your Deadlines

Living With Your Deadlines
Dealing with Deadlines
    Don't panic if your month is full of red marks!

    I love deadlines. I like the whooshing sound they make as they fly by.

    Douglas Adams, 1952-2001

    Do you love deadlines? I bet you don’t. In fact, I can’t name anyone who loves them… Except it is in the witty sense that Mr. Adams puts into them. In fact, I hate the sound of them whooshing as they pass, luckily I’ve learnt how to live with them, and you can too.

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    Dealing with deadlines

    Visualise them: This should be a no-brainer, but you’d be amazed at how many people fall in this trap. You need some calendaring system to track your deadlines. It does not matter if it is a fancy iPad application that syncs through Dropbox with your office server or a sheet attached with duct tape to your front door. Anything will work as long as you are consistent and use it.

    The best tool should have at least a monthly view, to have a clear map of what waits to be done in the next 30 days. It should also be effortless to add a new task or check what is left to do: if it requires even a little of your energy or time, you’ll end up not doing and the dreared whoosh will come again.

    Don’t fret out as they approach: The worse thing you can do when deadlines are looming is enter panic mode. If you think you can make it to the deadline there is no reason to get nervous… And if you don’t think you can make it, try anyway. A missed deadline is not the end of the world, but your boss/client will be happier if he knows you’ve given it everything you got.

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    Plan ahead of time: Another no-brainer that people tend to miss. As soon as you have a deadline for a project, start planning how you will solve it within this deadline. This can be working every day non-stop for 8 hours (a sign that this deadline was a too harsh) or doing X before Y.

    If you don’t have a plan you’ll end up working twice as much as you would with a plan. And probably will add a few sleepless nights due to the anxiety of not knowing exactly what is left. More about this in the next tip.

    Break the big into the simple: When you have long-winded deadlines (anything bigger than two weeks should go in this category), you should split the project into smaller sub-projects, and assign each of them their own mini-deadline. This goes together with planning: you turn a big and hairy project into a set of small furry balls you can always keep under control.

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    Don’t overdo this: there is no point in having a deadline each day for a certain project, but it will help having at least something to finish every 3 or 4 days.

    Be flexible: Before agreeing to a deadline, estimate how much time this project will eat… And add half that to the result. In other words, if you think a project will only need one week, try to get a 10 day deadline. This is not to help your slacking, mind you. This is to allow for unplanned emergencies. Everybody has a tendency to underestimate a task’s difficulty, and even if you are just lucky and the deadline is very sharp, life can always get in the way. Very tight deadlines can be broken just by waking up to a strong migraine.

    If you always add a small security gap to your deadlines, most of your projects will be delivered before the agreed deadline. This will put you ahead of the competition, nobody ever delivers before a deadline!

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    Do you know how to deal with your deadlines? Or are you just hanging from them?

    More by this author

    Living With Your Deadlines Biting off more than you can chew 7 Signs You Bite Off More Than You Can Chew The Clock Is Ticking The Clock Is Ticking: Give Up Your Procrastination Stop, Look and Listen: Dealing With Stress: The Stop, Look and Listen Method

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    Last Updated on August 6, 2019

    Why Do I Procrastinate? 5 Root Causes And How To Tackle Them

    Why Do I Procrastinate? 5 Root Causes And How To Tackle Them

    Procrastination is something many people can relate to and I, myself, have been there and done that. Yes, I write all about productivity now, but when I first started out on my career path, I would often put off work I didn’t want to do. And most of the time I didn’t even realize I was doing it.

    So what changed?

    I thought to myself, “why do I procrastinate?” And I started to read a lot of books on productivity, learning a great deal and shifting my mind to the reasons why people procrastinate.

    My understanding brought me a new perspective on how to put an end to the action of procrastination.

    Procrastination slows your goals and dreams way down. It can create stress and feelings of frustration. It rears its ugly head on a regular basis for a lot of people. This is particularly apparent at work with day-to-day projects and tasks.

    But, why do people self-sabotage in this way? Essentially, there are 5 reasons behind procrastination. See if you can identify with any of these in your own work life.

    1. The Perfectionist’s Fear

    Procrastination is sometimes a subconscious fear of failure.

    If you put off a task enough, then you can’t face up to the potential (and usually imagined) negative results. If you’re a stickler for minor details, the stress of getting things ‘just right’ may be too much and cause you to delay continuing the task.

    Either way, fear is at the root cause and can sabotage your desire to move forward.

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    How to Tackle It?

    Try visualizing the completion of your task in a positive way.

    For example, you have a presentation that your boss wants you to conduct for a potential client. Visualize yourself standing in the meeting room confident, meeting the eyes of the client and seeing them light up as you explain the concept simply and concisely.

    Imagine your boss telling you how great you did and you were the best person for the job. Think about how it would feel to you and focus on this as you move forward with the task.

    2. A Dreamer’s Lack of Action

    This is a person who is highly creative and has many brilliant ideas but can’t quite seem to bring them to fruition.

    The main reason for this is because there’s usually no structure or goal setting involved once the idea has been created. This aimless approach ends up manifesting as a lack of decision-making and significant delays on a project.

    How to Tackle It?

    Write down a timeline of what you want to achieve and by when. Ideally, do this daily to keep yourself on track and accountable for progression. Creative minds tend to jump from one idea to the next, so cultivating focus is essential.

    If you’re designing and creating a new product at work, set out a task list for the week ahead with the steps you want to focus on each day. Doing this ahead of time will stop your mind from wandering across to different ideas.

    Learn about how to plan your time and take actions from some of the successful people: 8 Ways Highly Successful People Plan Their Time

    3. An Overwhelmed Avoider

    This is one of the most common reasons for procrastination; the sheer overwhelm of a daunting task.

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    The complexity of a task can cause the brain to lose motivation and avoid doing it altogether choosing instead to stay in its comfort zone.

    The search then starts for a more enjoyable task and the harder tasks are put off. This can cause stress and dread when the task inevitably comes up to be completed.

    How to Tackle It?

    Break the challenge down into smaller tasks and tackle each one individually.

    For example, if you have a project that has technical elements to it that you know you’ll find challenging, list each step you need to take in order to complete these difficult elements. Think of ways you can resolve potential hurdles. Perhaps you have a coworker that may have time to help or even consider that the solution may be easier than you initially think. Put each task in order of most daunting to least daunting. Ideally, try to deal with the more challenging parts of each task in the morning so that momentum is created as the tasks get easier through the day.

    A reward system will also help you stay motivated so, once completed, you can enjoy your treat of choice.

    If you want to know how to better handle your feelings and stay motivated, take a look at my other article: Procrastination Is a Matter of Emotion, Here’s How to Stop It

    4. The Busy Bee Who Lacks Prioritization

    Either you have too many tasks or don’t truly acknowledge the differing importance of each task. The result? Getting nothing done.

    Time is spent switching constantly from one task to another or spending too much time deciding what to do.

    How to Tackle It?

    It’s all about priorities and choosing important tasks over urgent ones.

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    Make sure to question the value and purpose of each task and make a list in order of importance.

    For example, throughout your work day, you can waste a lot of time dealing with ‘urgent’ emails from colleagues but, you need to ask yourself if these are more important than working on a task that will affect, say, several office projects at once.

    Help yourself to prioritize and set a goal of working through your list over the next few hours reassessing the situation once the time is up.

    In my other article, I talk about an effective way to prioritze and achieve more in less time: How to Prioritize Right in 10 Minutes and Work 10X Faster

    5. The One with Shiny Object Syndrome (Distraction-Prone)

    This is another common cause for procrastination; just simple distraction.

    Our brains aren’t wired to focus for long periods of time and it looks for something else. So throw in a bunch of colleagues equally looking for distractions or checking your phone mindlessly, and you’ve got a recipe for ultimate procrastination.

    However, this type of procrastination may not always be an unconscious decision to sabotage and put off work. It’s simply a result of your work setup or types of coworkers you have. Only you know the answer to that.

    How to Tackle It?

    Be mindful of your workspace and potential distractions. Schedule a specific time to converse with your coworkers, put headphones on to minimize listening to what’s going on around you, and switch your phone off.

    Aim to do this for 20-30 minutes at a time and then take a break. This will be a much more efficient way of working and getting what you need done. This is also why scheduling down time is so important for productivity.

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    Whether this type of procrastination is self-sabotage or being a victim of a distracting environment, either way you can take control.

    If you need a little more guidance on how to stay focus, this guide can help you: How to Focus and Maximize Your Productivity (the Definitive Guide)

    Bottom Line

    I’m going to be bold and assume you identified with at least one of these procrastination pitfalls.

    You could be trapped in the endless cycle of procrastination like I was, that is, until I decided to find out my why behind putting off tasks and projects. It was only then that I could implement strategies and move forward in a positive and productive way.

    I killed the procrastination monster and so can you. I now complete my tasks more efficiently and completely killed that feeling of stress and falling behind with work that procrastination brings.

    I know it’s not easy to stop procrastinating right away, so I also have this complete guide to help you stop it once and for all: Procrastination – A Step-By-Step Guide to Stop Procrastinating

    Featured photo credit: Luke Chesser via unsplash.com

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