The Art of Managing Deadlines

If there’s one universal thing every accomplished procrastinator excels at, it’s sliding to home plate at the last possible second. But along with the thrill of finishing something with hardly any time to spare comes a whole lot of nail-biting anxiety. Many nights are spent fraught with terror, thinking about everything you should’ve completed that day that you just… didn’t. 

Well… Been there, done that. About 100 times too many, in fact.

I’ve known deadlines and the chaos they can reap on your psyche. If you’ve ever had a job or gone to school in basically any capacity, you’ve known them too. And with a million distractions programed into the smartphone that rarely leaves our hands, it’s easier than ever to miss them.

Mark the date

When is your deadline? Whether set for yourself or by someone else, make sure you have one and that it is very clear what is expected by that point. If given a “ballpark” time period by a boss or a team, do yourself a massive favor and assign yourself a specific date to aim for. Mark your calendar, put a sticky note on your monitor or fridge, write it in big numbers on your bathroom mirror – just make sure that deadline doesn’t go unnoticed! The brain is clever that way.

Digestible Goals

While completing my undergraduate degree, online courses that did not include any in-person lectures taught me the value in bite-sized daily goals. It is so easy to put things off when you aren’t being held accountable by outside players. So I needed to learn how to hold myself accountable on a daily basis – and a little bit of commitment to a small amount of studying and reading a day was all it took to snowball to success. If there were no daily goals set, tomorrow would always a better time to get my studying done. And that, my friends, is how to end up three espressos deep at 2am, the morning of your paper being due. No thanks!

A great way to segment your goals is to start your morning by making four columns on a piece of paper:

  1. Important and Urgent
  2. Urgent, but not important
  3. Important, but not urgent
  4. Not important or urgent

Underneath, write down your plans for the day. If we are honest with our priorities, this is a great first step to getting a glimpse of how your time is managed in anticipation towards your deadlines. The goal here is to bite off a little bit of progress each day.

Utilize your Apps

There’s more to offer on your smartphone’s app store than games and photo editors. Developers across the globe have worked tirelessly to create innovative tools to utilize on a daily basis, making your phone more than a paperweight. Some of my favorite apps are below.

  1. Forest – this app will grow trees while you work! + ambient sounds.
  2. Focus Keeper – this app has a built-in timer, to avoid burnout!
  3. Remember The Milk – an app designed to help you remember the small tasks that are easy to forget.
  4. Trello – A popular app among workplaces, you an also use this for managing individual projects.

Some of the best apps may cost you a few dollars – but there are also plenty of useful applications built-in to your factory settings. On IOS, the Notes app, the Reminders app, the Calendar app, and the Timer App are all free and user-friendly. Even your grandma can figure those out!

Distractions

Distractions? Turn them into rewards.

Start by allowing yourself a 5 minute break for every 30 mins of work completed. If that means 5 minutes of scrolling through your social media, then that’s great! Multi-tasking is often a slippery slope and even more so once multi-tasking involves doing things that are not important to get the job done. Utilize your time properly for the task at hand and you’ll find that there is more free time available for you later.

Celebrate!

Sometimes when people think of the word “deadline”, they have an immediate negative conotation in their head. I mean, it is a word that begins with ‘dead’. But deadlines can be exciting!

If your deadline is in a relation to a goal you have set for yourself, a client, or from your boss… make sure you remind yourself daily of why you’re aiming for that date. Deadlines don’t require dread! Get excited about the feeling you’ll have once the work is complete, and plan a small method of celebration – even if its only for yourself.

We all would rather be motivated through reward rather than fear.

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