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How To Conquer Any Deadline

How To Conquer Any Deadline

Deadlines are a difficult but inevitable part of life. From work projects to planning big events in your personal life, learning how to conquer any deadline will make you more efficient and productive and give you confidence that you can take on any task you need to.

Start With Backward Planning

If you have a deadline, whether it’s to write an article, finish a work project or get ready for a vacation, you probably have a pretty clear idea of what the end of the project is going to look like. You also probably know how much time you have until you need to get to that end point. (If you don’t have a firm deadline, make one up. That makes planning and actually getting the thing done a lot easier.)

So, to get going on your project plan, start at the end instead of the beginning. You know what finished looks like, so what’s the thing you have to do right before you call it finished? And what before that? And before that?

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If you can work backward through the steps you need to take to finish your project, it will make it a lot easier to know where to start and what to do every step of the way to meet your deadline.

For example if you’re planning a vacation, the last thing you’ll do is get on the airplane. Before that you have to get to the airport, pack your bags, set up care for your animals and house while you’re gone, pick a place to go, and research possible destinations and when you’d like to travel. Now you know where to start.

Take Small Steps

Backward planning gives you the broad strokes of what you need to do to meet a deadline, but sometimes they can still be pretty big jobs. If you’re writing a book, editing may be one step on your plan, but that still feels pretty overwhelming, which can set you up for procrastination.

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Instead of looking at the task in big chunks, think about how you can divide those into smaller steps that would be more manageable. For instance you can think about editing a chapter a day, or one in the morning and one in the afternoon, instead of looking at editing as one big thing that needs to be done. That way you’ll constantly be making progress that will build on itself instead of feeling overwhelmed by your project.

Set Little Deadlines

Once you have your small steps in place you also need to set little deadlines. I know the thought of more deadlines probably doesn’t make you very happy, but I promise it will take stress off you to have benchmarks (go ahead and call them benchmarks, or goals, or something other than deadlines if it makes you feel better, but know that they are deadlines) to keep you on track, especially with a big project.

Planning a wedding? You know your wedding date, so you can backward plan all the vendors you need to contact and things you need to do. Make a deadline for having each of these decisions made and you’ll feel a lot better about all the things you have to do. It will also keep you from putting off those decisions if you can stick to the timeline, which will ease some of the stress of planning.

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For a work project you can do the same thing. What do you need to have done each day or each week to meet your deadline? Put it on your calendar and commit to getting it done, one piece at a time.

Take Action

Now that you have a plan complete with little steps and tiny deadlines in place, it’s time to take action. What’s one little step you can take right now that will get you closer to done? And what can you do after that? Don’t delay!

Remember, there’s no penalty for finishing early, and it’s great to use the momentum of beginning to get a good start on a project rather than using the stress and pressure of the deadline to motivate you.

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Celebrate Your Success

Once this plan has worked for you, remember to reward yourself. Meeting big deadlines — heck, even meeting small deadlines — can be hard, and you need to honor that by doing something special for yourself. That could mean taking a day off, going for a walk after work, eating at a favorite restaurant, buying a new book, whatever little token of appreciation you can give yourself for a job well done.

Remember how good that feels and you’ll remember that planning and taking small steps is the best way to conquer a deadline.

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Sarah White

Freelance Writer, Editor, Professional Crafter

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Last Updated on March 23, 2021

Manage Your Energy so You Can Manage Your Time

Manage Your Energy so You Can Manage Your Time

One of the greatest ironies of this age is that while various gadgets like smartphones and netbooks allow you to multitask, it seems that you never manage to get things done. You are caught in the busyness trap. There’s just too much work to do in one day that sometimes you end up exhausted with half-finished tasks.

The problem lies in how to keep our energy level high to ensure that you finish at least one of your most important tasks for the day. There’s just not enough hours in a day and it’s not possible to be productive the whole time.

You need more than time management. You need energy management

1. Dispel the idea that you need to be a “morning person” to be productive

How many times have you heard (or read) this advice – wake up early so that you can do all the tasks at hand. There’s nothing wrong with that advice. It’s actually reeks of good common sense – start early, finish early. The thing is that technique alone won’t work with everyone. Especially not with people who are not morning larks.

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I should know because I was once deluded with the idea that I will be more productive if I get out of bed by 6 a.m. Like most of you Lifehackers, I’m always on the lookout for productivity hacks because I have a lot of things in my plate. I’m working full time as an editor for a news agency, while at the same time tending to my side business as a content marketing strategist. I’m also a travel blogger and oh yeah, I forgot, I also have a life.

I read a lot of productivity books and blogs looking for ways to make the most of my 24 hours. Most stories on productivity stress waking up early. So I did – and I was a major failure in that department – both in waking up early and finishing early.

2. Determine your “peak hours”

Energy management begins with looking for your most productive hours in a day. Getting attuned to your body clock won’t happen instantly but there’s a way around it.

Monitor your working habits for one week and list down the time when you managed to do the most work. Take note also of what you feel during those hours – do you feel energized or lethargic? Monitor this and you will find a pattern later on.

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My experiment with being a morning lark proved that ignoring my body clock and just doing it by disciplining myself to wake up before 8 a.m. will push me to be more productive. I thought that by writing blog posts and other reports in the morning that I would be finished by noon and use my lunch break for a quick gym session. That never happened. I was sleepy, distracted and couldn’t write jack before 10 a.m.

In fact that was one experiment that I shouldn’t have tried because I should know better. After all, I’ve been writing for a living for the last 15 years, and I have observed time and again that I write more –and better – in the afternoon and in evenings after supper. I’m a night owl. I might as well, accept it and work around it.

Just recently, I was so fired up by a certain idea that – even if I’m back home tired from work – I took out my netbook, wrote and published a 600-word blog post by 11 p.m. This is a bit extreme and one of my rare outbursts of energy, but it works for me.

3. Block those high-energy hours

Once you have a sense of that high-energy time, you can then mold your schedule so that your other less important tasks will be scheduled either before or after this designated productive time.

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Block them out in your calendar and use the high-energy hours for your high priority tasks – especially those that require more of your mental energy and focus. You also need to use these hours to any task that will bring you closer to you life’s goal.

If you are a morning person, you might want to schedule most business meetings before lunch time as it’s important to keep your mind sharp and focused. But nothing is set in stone. Sometimes you have to sacrifice those productive hours to attend to other personal stuff – like if you or your family members are sick or if you have to attend your son’s graduation.

That said, just remember to keep those productive times on your calendar. You may allow for some exemptions but stick to that schedule as much as possible.

There’s no right or wrong way of using this energy management technique because everything depends on your own personal circumstances. What you need to remember is that you have to accept what works for you – and not what other productivity gurus say you should do.

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Understanding your own body clock is the key to time management. Without it, you end up exhausted chasing a never-ending cycle of tasks and frustrations.

Featured photo credit: Collin Hardy via unsplash.com

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