How to manage your deadlines

Thursday 28th April 2022

Meeting deadlines can be a struggle. Very few of us work in areas that don’t set some sort of deadlines on the tasks we are assigned. Most of us are dealing with our deadlines on an ongoing basis and for lots of people a looming deadline date is a constant source of anxiety and stress. However, in order to run a successful organisation and for us to have successful careers, managing and meeting our deadlines is essential.

So, what is the point of a deadline?

Deadlines set targets for when work needs to be completed; it also ensures that when collaborating with others the operation runs smoothly and allows us to keep multiple projects on task. Deadlines make it clear to those involved what is happening and allows us the opportunity to control our workload without confusion. Failing to meet a deadline can often be quite serious depending on the type of work you are involved in as it can have reputational and financial consequences for you and/or the organisation you work for.

If you find yourself getting increasingly anxious at work because you can’t seem to manage to complete your tasks on time, you may need some useful tips that will help you to manage your time better and become more organised.  We have put together some useful strategies to help:

1. Create a to-do list

Create a list of things that need to be done in order to complete the task. This will enable you to have a clear picture of what you need to do in a particular time period.

Once you have done this you need to prioritise. Deadlines are better met when tasks are tackled by priority and not by time.

If the tasks to be completed are huge then break them down into more manageable incremental targets and have a deadline for each one - this will prevent feeling overwhelmed and more in control.

2. Make a checklist

If it helps, create a checklist of tasks and tick each one off as you complete them, this will help you to remain positive, giving you a feeling that progress is being made and encouraging you to keep going and finish the job.

3. Set aside time

Create sufficient time in your working day that is uninterrupted and devoted solely to completing a particular task. You will be able to give it your undivided attention and prevent you from being distracted by meetings, phone calls and other demands on your time or from just procrastinating.

Once you start working on a particular task don’t stop until it has either been completed or the time frame you set aside is up.

4. Manage yourself

It is important to be able to manage yourself in order to manage your deadlines. Try to adopt a positive mindset in your approach to your deadlines and see them as an opportunity to create control over the tasks.

Time manage yourself and make sure you stick to your plan and try not to get distracted by other tasks. Learn to recognise behaviours that have previously prevented you from either hitting deadlines or have had you stressed from leaving tasks to the last minute.

If you find you are struggling with the size of the task, make it smaller and more easily achievable... eventually you will develop the technique to be able to handle tasks on a larger scale.

5. Be self aware

Recognise the time of day that you know you work best, have more energy and are more focused. It may be the morning, afternoon or early evening. Schedule the more important tasks for this time and leave other times of the day for the less arduous tasks, maybe checking emails or making phone calls. Using these productive periods well will give you more control, reduce stress and maximise your effectiveness throughout the day.

6. Emails

Set a time of day to check your emails. Take off email notifications if it helps to prevent interruptions from incoming messages. Reading emails whilst working on something important risks distraction from important work and won’t help with the completion of the task you are working on.

If you are waiting on an important email then just keep your eye out for that one, just try not to let your eye wander and try not to use email checking as a way of avoiding the task at hand.

7. Self care

If you are working towards a deadline make sure that you look after yourself during the day. Take small breaks and don’t go hungry! Hunger will be distracting and you won’t have the energy to concentrate. If you start to feel sleepy take a break and get some fresh air or just move about for a while. Adopting self care practices will help you stay focused and on target.

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