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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 September 20, 2018

8 Ways to Train Your Brain to Learn Faster and Remember More

8 Ways to Train Your Brain to Learn Faster and Remember More

You go to the gym to train your muscles. You run outside or go for hikes to train your endurance. Or, maybe you do neither of those, but still wish you exercised more.

Well, here is how to train one of the most important parts of your body: your brain.

When you train your brain, you will:

  • Avoid embarrassing situations. You remember his face, but what was his name?
  • Be a faster learner in all sorts of different skills. No problem for you to pick up a new language or new management skill.
  • Avoid diseases that hit as you get older. Alzheimer’s will not be affecting you.

So how to train your brain and improve your cognitive skills?

1. Work your memory

Twyla Tharp, a NYC-based renowned choreographer has come up with the following memory workout:

When she watches one of her performances, she tries to remember the first twelve to fourteen corrections she wants to discuss with her cast without writing them down.

If you think this is anything less than a feat, then think again. In her book The Creative Habit she says that most people cannot remember more than three.

The practice of both remembering events or things and then discussing them with others has actually been supported by brain fitness studies.

Memory activities that engage all levels of brain operation—receiving, remembering and thinking—help to improve the function of the brain.

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Now, you may not have dancers to correct, but you may be required to give feedback on a presentation, or your friends may ask you what interesting things you saw at the museum. These are great opportunities to practically train your brain by flexing your memory muscles.

What is the simplest way to help yourself remember what you see? Repetition.

For example, say you just met someone new:

“Hi, my name is George”

Don’t just respond with, “Nice to meet you”. Instead, say, “Nice to meet you George.”

Got it? Good.

2. Do something different repeatedly

By actually doing something new over and over again, your brain wires new pathways that help you do this new thing better and faster.

Think back to when you were three years old. You surely were strong enough to hold a knife and a fork just fine. Yet, when you were eating all by yourself, you were creating a mess.

It was not a matter of strength, you see. It was a matter of cultivating more and better neural pathways that would help you eat by yourself just like an adult does.

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And guess what? With enough repetition you made that happen!

But how does this apply to your life right now?

Say you are a procrastinator. The more you don’t procrastinate, the more you teach your brain not to wait for the last minute to make things happen.

Now, you might be thinking “Duh, if only not procrastinating could be that easy!”

Well, it can be. By doing something really small, that you wouldn’t normally do, but is in the direction of getting that task done, you will start creating those new precious neural pathways.

So if you have been postponing organizing your desk, just take one paper and put in its right place. Or, you can go even smaller. Look at one piece of paper and decide where to put it: Trash? Right cabinet? Another room? Give it to someone?

You don’t actually need to clean up that paper; you only need to decide what you need to do with it.

That’s how small you can start. And yet, those neural pathways are still being built. Gradually, you will transform yourself from a procrastinator to an in-the-moment action taker.

3. Learn something new

It might sound obvious, but the more you use your brain, the better its going to perform for you.

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For example, learning a new instrument improves your skill of translating something you see (sheet music) to something you actually do (playing the instrument).

Learning a new language exposes your brain to a different way of thinking, a different way of expressing yourself.

You can even literally take it a step further, and learn how to dance. Studies indicate that learning to dance helps seniors avoid Alzheimer’s. Not bad, huh?

4. Follow a brain training program

The Internet world can help you improve your brain function while lazily sitting on your couch. A clinically proven program like BrainHQ can help you improve your memory, or think faster, by just following their brain training exercises.

5. Work your body

You knew this one was coming didn’t you? Yes indeed, exercise does not just work your body; it also improves the fitness of your brain.

Even briefly exercising for 20 minutes facilitates information processing and memory functions. But it’s not just that–exercise actually helps your brain create those new neural connections faster. You will learn faster, your alertness level will increase, and you get all that by moving your body.

Now, if you are not already a regular exerciser, and already feel guilty that you are not helping your brain by exercising more, try a brain training exercise program like Exercise Bliss.

Remember, just like we discussed in #2, by training your brain to do something new repeatedly, you are actually changing yourself permanently.

6. Spend time with your loved ones

If you want optimal cognitive abilities, then you’ve got to have meaningful relationships in your life.  Talking with others and engaging with your loved ones helps you think more clearly, and it can also lift your mood.

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If you are an extrovert, this holds even more weight for you. At a class at Stanford University, I learned that extroverts actually use talking to other people as a way to understand and process their own thoughts.

I remember that the teacher told us that after a personality test said she was an extrovert, she was surprised. She had always thought of herself as an introvert. But then, she realized how much talking to others helped her frame her own thoughts, so she accepted her new-found status as an extrovert.

7. Avoid crossword puzzles

Many of us, when we think of brain fitness, think of crossword puzzles. And it’s true–crossword puzzles do improve our fluency, yet studies show they are not enough by themselves.

Are they fun? Yes. Do they sharpen your brain? Not really.

Of course, if you are doing this for fun, then by all means go ahead. If you are doing it for brain fitness, then you might want to choose another activity

8. Eat right – and make sure dark chocolate is included

Foods like fish, fruits, and vegetables help your brain perform optimally. Yet, you might not know that dark chocolate gives your brain a good boost as well.

When you eat chocolate, your brain produces dopamine. And dopamine helps you learn faster and remember better. Not to mention, chocolate contains flavonols, antioxidants, which also improve your brain functions.

So next time you have something difficult to do, make sure you grab a bite or two of dark chocolate!

The bottom line

Now that you know how to train your brain, it’s actually time to start doing.

Don’t just consume this content and then go on with your life as if nothing has changed. Put this knowledge into action and become smarter than ever!

Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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