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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

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    Last Updated on November 5, 2020

    Why You Have the Fear of Failure (And How to Overcome It)

    Why You Have the Fear of Failure (And How to Overcome It)

    Nobody enjoys failing. Fear of failure can be so strong that avoiding failure eclipses the motivation to succeed. Insecurity about doing things incorrectly causes many people to unconsciously sabotage their chances for success.

    Fear is part of human nature. As an entrepreneur, I faced this same fear. My ego and identity became intertwined with my work, and when things didn’t go as planned, I completely shut down. I overcame this unhealthy relationship with fear, and I believe that you can, too.

    Together we’ll examine how you can use failure to your advantage instead of letting it run your life. We’ll also look at how to overcome fear of failure so that you can enjoy success in your work and life.

    What Is Fear of Failure?

    If you are afraid of failure, it will cause you to avoid potentially harmful situations.

    Fear of failure keeps you from trying, creates self-doubt, stalls progress, and may lead you to go against your morals.

    What causes a fear of failure? Here are the main reasons why fear of failing exists:

    Patterns From Childhood

    Hyper-critical adults cause children to internalize damaging mindsets.[1] They establish ultimatums and fear-based rules. This causes children to feel the constant need to ask for permission and reassurance. They carry this need for validation into adulthood.

    Perfectionism

    Perfectionism is often at the root of a fear of failure.[2] For perfectionists, failure is so terrible and humiliating that they don’t try. Stepping outside your comfort zone becomes terrifying.

    Over-Personalization

    The ego may lead us to over-identify with failures. It’s hard to look beyond failure at things like the quality of the effort, extenuating circumstances, or growth opportunities.[3]

    False Self-Confidence

    People with true confidence know they won’t always succeed. A person with fragile self-confidence avoids risks. They’d rather play it safe than try something new.[4]

    How the Fear of Failure Holds You Back

    Unhealthy Organization Culture

    Too many organizations today have cultures of perfection: a set of organizational beliefs that any failure is unacceptable. Only pure, untainted success will do.

    Imagine the stress and terror in an organization like that. The constant covering up of the smallest blemishes. The wild finger-pointing as everyone tries to shift the blame for the inevitable messes onto someone else. The lying, cheating, falsification of data, and hiding of problems—until they become crises that defy being hidden any longer.

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    Miss out on Valuable Opportunities

    If some people fail to reach a complete answer because of the lure of some early success, many more fail because of their ego-driven commitment to what worked in the past. You often see this with senior people, especially those who made their names by introducing some critical change years ago.

    They shy away from further innovation, afraid that this time they might fail, diminishing the luster they try to keep around their names from past triumph.

    Besides, they reason, the success of something new might even prove that those achievements they made in the past weren’t so great after all. Why take the risk when you can hang on to your reputation by doing nothing?

    Such people are so deeply invested in their egos and the glories of their past that they prefer to set aside opportunities for future glory rather than risk even the possibility of failure.

    High Achievers Become Losers

    Every talent contains an opposite that sometimes turns it into a problem. Successful people like to win and achieve high standards. This can make them so terrified of failure that it ruins their lives. When a positive trait, like achievement, becomes too strong in someone’s life, it’s on the way to becoming a major obstacle.

    Achievement is a powerful value for many successful people. They’ve built their lives on it. They achieve at everything they do: school, college, sports, the arts, hobbies, work. Each fresh achievement adds to the power of the value in their lives.

    Gradually, failure becomes unthinkable. Maybe they’ve never failed yet in anything that they’ve done, so they have no experience of rising above it. Failure becomes the supreme nightmare: a frightful horror they must avoid at any cost.

    The simplest way to do this is never to take a risk, stick rigidly to what you know you can do, protect yourself, work the longest hours, double and triple check everything, and be the most conscientious and conservative person in the universe.

    If constant hard work, diligence, brutal working schedules and harrying subordinates won’t ward off the possibility of failing, use every other possible means to to keep it away. Falsify numbers, hide anything negative, conceal errors, avoid customer feedback, constantly shift the blame for errors onto anyone too weak to fight back.

    Loss of Creativity

    Over-achievers destroy their own peace of mind and the lives of those who work for them. People too attached to “goodness” and morality become self-righteous bigots. Those whose values for building close relationships become unbalanced slide into smothering their friends and family with constant expressions of affection and demands for love in return.

    Everyone likes to succeed. The problem comes when fear of failure is dominant, when you can no longer accept the inevitability of making mistakes, nor recognize the importance of trial and error in finding the most creative solution.

    The more creative you are, the more errors you are going to make. Deciding to avoid the errors will destroy your creativity, too.

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    Balance counts more than you think. Some tartness must season the sweetest dish. A little selfishness is valuable even in the most caring person. And a little failure is essential to preserve everyone’s perspective on success.

    We hear a lot about being positive. Maybe we also need to recognize that the negative parts of our lives and experience have just as important a role to play in finding success, in work, and in life.

    How to Overcome Fear of Failure (Step-by-Step)

    1. Figure out Where the Fear Comes From

    Ask yourself what the root cause of your negative belief could be.[5] When you look at the four main causes for a fear of failure, which ones resonate with you?

    Write down where you think the fear comes from, and try to understand it as an outsider.

    If it helps, imagine you’re trying to help one of your best friends. Perhaps your fear stems from something that happened in your childhood, or a deep-seated insecurity.

    Naming the source of the fear takes away some of its power.

    2. Reframe Beliefs About Your Goal

    Having an all or nothing mentality leaves you with nothing sometimes. Have a clear vision for what you’d like to accomplish but include learning something new in your goal.

    If you always aim for improvement and learning, you are much less likely to fail.[6]

    At Pixar, people are actually encouraged to “fail early and fail fast.”[7] They encourage experimentation and innovation so that they can stay on the cutting edge. That mindset involves failure, but as long as they achieve their vision of telling great stories, all the stumbling blocks are just opportunities to grow.

    3. Learn to Think Positive

    In many cases, you believe what you tell yourself. Your internal dialogue affects how you react and behave.

    Our society is obsessed with success, but it’s important to recognize that even the most successful people encounter failure.

    Walt Disney was once fired from a newspaper because they thought he lacked creativity. He went on to found an animation studio that failed. He never gave up, and now Disney is a household name.

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    Steve Jobs was also once fired from Apple before returning as the face of the company for many years. [8]

    If Disney and Jobs had believed the negative feedback, they wouldn’t have made it.

    It’s up to you to notice your negative self talk and identify triggers[9]. Replace negative thoughts with positive facts about yourself and the situation. You’ll be able to create a new mental scripts that you can reach for when you feel negativity creeping in. The voice inside your head has a great effect on what you do.

    How To Be A Positive Thinker: Positivity Exercises, Affirmations, & Quotes

      4. Visualize all Potential Outcomes

      Uncertainty about what will happen next is terrifying. Take time to visualize the possible outcomes of your decision. Think about the best and worst-case scenarios. You’ll feel better if you’ve already had a chance to mentally prepare for what could happen.

      Fear of the unknown might keep you from taking a new job. Weigh the pros and cons, and imagine potential successes and failures in making such a life-altering decision. Knowing how things could turn out might help you get unstuck.

      5. Look at the Worst-Case Scenario

      There are times when the worst case could be absolutely devastating. In many cases, if something bad happens, it won’t be the end of the world.

      It’s important to define how bad the worst case scenario is in the grand scheme of your life. Sometimes, we give situations more power than they deserve. In most cases, a failure is not permanent.

      For example, when you start a new business, it’s bound to be a learning experience. You’ll make decisions that don’t pan out, but often that discomfort is temporary. You can change your strategy and rebound. Even in the worst case scenario, if the perceived failure led to the end of that business, it might be the launching point for something new.

      6. Have a Backup Plan

      It never hurts to have a backup plan. The last thing you want to do is scramble for a solution when the worst has happened. The old adage is solid wisdom:

      “Hope for the best, prepare for the worst.”

      Having a backup plan gives you more confidence to move forward and take calculated risks.

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      Perhaps you’ve applied for a grant to fund an initiative at work. In the worst-case scenario, if you don’t get the grant, are there other ways you could get the funds?

      There are usually multiple ways to tackle a problem, so having a backup is a great way to reduce anxiety about possible failure.

      7. Learn From Whatever Happens

      Things may not go the way you planned, but that doesn’t automatically mean you’ve failed. Learn from whatever arises.[10] Even a less than ideal situation can be a great opportunity to make changes and grow.

      “Sometimes you win, sometimes you learn.”

      Dig deep enough, and you’re bound to find the silver lining. When you’ve learned that “failure” is an opportunity for growth instead of a death sentence, you conquer the fear of failure.

      For more tips on how to overcome fear of failure, check out the video below:

      Final Thoughts

      To overcome fear of failure, we can start by figuring out where it comes from and reframing the way we feel about failure. When failure is a chance for growth, and you’ve looked at all possible outcomes, it’s easier to overcome fear.

      Stay positive, have a backup plan, and learn from whatever happens. Your failures will be sources of education and inspiration rather than humiliation.

      “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” -Thomas A. Edison

      Failures can be blessings in disguise. Go boldly in the direction of your dreams and long-term goals.

      More Tips for Conquering Fear

      Featured photo credit: Patrick Hendry via unsplash.com

      Reference

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