Deadlines: How to Make a Deadline Without Getting Stressed

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Have you ever been handed a deadline from your boss and thought, “Are you serious? There is no way I can get it done by then.”? In those times it is important to have a few skills at your disposal so you can make the deadline without stressing yourself out to the max.

How to make deadlines without getting stressed

In this post I am going to show you a few little tips and tricks for tackling those upcoming deadlines without getting stressed. I have broken these tips up in to two sections:

  • External aspects; your environment
  • Internal aspects; your mind

This will give you a very comprehensive way of tackling these problems by trying to address all of the important factors that might come up during the lead up to a deadline.

External aspects of avoiding stress leading up to a deadline

When we are trying to make a deadline there are a lot of external events going on around us. Sometimes they are related to the task you are working on such as liaising with other people in your team. Other times some unrelated events will pop up and cause you obstacles like having to take your son to the dentist because he chipped his tooth at football practice.

Some of these external events can be controlled. Sometimes they can’t.

When you are trying to make a deadline there are certain external things that you can do to help you work. Here are a few of the important ones.

Keep your work space quiet


Creative Commons License photo credit: Jon Wiley

When you are trying to meet a deadline you need a lot of quiet space. You don’t want people rushing in and out of your office asking you questions or requesting your help. Close your door and put a sign on it saying do not disturb.

You also want to turn off the music or the television. These things often distract us, even if just on a subtle level. Furthermore, noise often leads to stress, especially if those noises are keeping us from our work. Try and keep your workspace quiet.

Make sure you have everything you need
Before you sit down and lock the door to get to work it is a good idea to make sure you have everything you need. This includes:

  • Pencils and pens
  • Information, data and so on
  • Food and drink

If you have everything that you need right in front of you there will be less temptation to get up and walk around looking for what you are missing. You will be able to get right down to your work and focus without breaking.

This also helps you to avoid stress. Sometimes you start work only to realize that you don’t have everything you need and this leads to stress. Especially if it is after 5pm and everyone in the office has gone home.

Work in 30 minute chunks
In high school one of my teachers told me to study for 30 minutes and then take a break for five. At first I thought it sounded a little weak thinking that I could study for longer than 30 minutes. However, he insisted and when I tried it I realized that there was a lot of wisdom to it.

The human mind is, if untrained, a very fickle thing. It moves around from topic to topic and it gets exhausted very easily. Taking a short break every 30 minutes allows you to revitalize and gather your thoughts. More importantly, when you are working during that 30 minutes you will be less likely to lose focus because you know that a break is coming up soon.

Write down a clear goal
Writing things down is essential when it comes to making a deadline. If you don’t write down a clear goal you will not be clear about what you have to do. Unless you write it down it will remain somewhat of a mystery!

Write down clear goals and put them where you can see them. The goals should be related to how you are going to achieve your deadline. You need to give each goal a time line as well – this makes it much more focussed. A goal without a time line is a dream, not a goal.

Writing things down helps you avoid stress because you can keep yourself on track. Get it out of your head and on to the paper.

Don’t take on more work
If you know that the current deadline is stressing you out it is a very good idea to turn down any other work until you have got the first one covered. Don’t be afraid to tell your boss that you can’t handle another project. Simply tell them that you don’t want to do any work poorly and as such need to turn it down in order to get the most out of the first one. They will generally appreciate it.

Internal aspects of making a deadline without getting stressed


Creative Commons License photo credit: Pak Gwei

Just as important as the physical is the mental. If you neglect to take care of your internal environment you are failing to prepare yourself fully for the stress that comes along with the deadline.

Logically think about your stress
It is important to look at stress with a logical mind. If you don’t feel like you are going to achieve the deadline you will notice some stress start to creep in. When this happens you need to tell yourself that there is nothing you can do. Even if you were Superman you would not be able to make this deadline. Therefore, stressing about it is silly.

When you look at stress with a logical mind you will realize that it is not at all a logical emotion. It is something that happens when we aren’t behaving logically!

Slow down mentally before you start
When our mind’s are calm and centered we get more work done. If we are erratic and listless we will get stressed because we are unable to focus on our task.

It is therefore very important to slow down mentally before you start your work. This can be done by doing some simple breathing meditation or just taking a few moments to quieten down and relax. This will make your work session a lot more productive and allow you to get the most out of your time.

Remind yourself that you are in control
Stress happens when we feel like we are not in control. This is when the deadline starts to seem scary. However, by gently reminding yourself that you are in control you can avoid stress before it happens.

I like to do this when I am studying for exams. I write down what I am going to accomplish each day and then as I accomplish it I cross it off and say to myself something like, “Nice one! Nearly there. You are killing this. You’ve got it under control.”

It really helps.

Does anyone have any other tips for making a deadline without getting stressed? We would love to hear them and they might help someone at the office reading this now.

top image:Creative Commons License photo credit: frangrit

2 thoughts on “Deadlines: How to Make a Deadline Without Getting Stressed

  1. English is not my first language and the word “deadline” always made me puzzled. I think one of the easy tips is to stop calling it a “deadline” – you are not going to die after it. I think just saying that might reduce the stress.

    Also to emphasize your point about not taking any more work: if you working on a particular project just think about what are you doing right now. Don’t worry about other stuff and don’t let your mind wonder.

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