We all know the stress of running a losing race against deadlines. I decided a while back that I would manage my deadlines instead of letting them manage me. I used these 4 approaches to stay ahead of deadlines. You may find them useful too.
How to stay ahead of deadlines
1. Reduce the number of deadlines
Start by accepting fewer deadlines. Once you gather the courage to say no, this has tremendous impact on your happiness.. Decide what your top priorities in life and work are. Anything else is a candidate for your new no-deadline policy.
When others ask you to take part in meetings or projects, turn them down politely. Say, “I’d love to, but can’t commit to a date right now. Is it ok if I get back to you when my schedule frees up?” You’ll be surprised how many people will let you off the hook totally. They realise you’re not an easy target, and will seek out someone else who has difficulty saying no to them.
2. Mentally bring forward your deadlines
Once you have fewer deadlines, mentally bring each one forward by a day or even a week. Be firm with yourself about finishing the project by this earlier date. This reduces your stress level since there is a buffer between your own deadline and the actual deadline. If something unexpected crops up just before the actual deadline, you can deal with it because you created that buffer. It also results in better quality work because you were not rushing through the work.
This earlier deadline has to be as real in your mind as the actual one. If you don’t take your own deadline seriously, your mind will recognise only the actual deadline. Teach your brain that this earlier deadline is very real by rewarding yourself in a small way when you meet it.
3. Submit your work ahead of the deadline
Finishing work early wins you brownie points with bosses and clients. They’llll want to work with you more because you are so reliable. They are also likely to accept the deadlines you propose in future, since they know that you will honour your promise. This helps you manage your deadlines better, and so you create a positive feedback loop.
4. Wait till close to the actual deadline
If you choose to wait for the actual deadline to hand in the work, you have the opportunity to submit work of better quality. When you have a day or more between completing your work and handing it in, you can re-look it with some mental distance, and therefore view it more objectively and make effective revisions just before handing it in.
While you’re waiting for the actual deadline to submit your work, start on your next project. This extra pocket of time gives you a headstart on every project and all these extra headstarts will boost your productivity, confidence and enjoyment of your work.