Deadlines and commitments: did you get your tax return in on time? Deadlines and Commitments… sounds like a song title, doesn’t it? Oh wait, it is. By The Killers, apparently. Wonder if they wrote it instead of sending in their tax return! Just thinking about meeting deadlines and commitments can notch up your blood pressure, so to avoid that particular health issue, consider this:
You’ve done it before, so you can do it again.
You meet deadlines all the time. You meet the deadline for catching a train, arriving at a meeting, attending an appointment. The point is, you are capable of meeting deadlines and commitments, so override the negative voice that’s telling you to procrastinate, and consider how to make them more user-friendly.
Begin with a clear vision
Be clear about what you have to do and by when. The “by when” is crucial. If you’re not clear about your deadline, make sure you get that clarity to help you plan, and ensure that your goal is realistic.
Prepare and plan your strategy – this is not procrastination!
Make it easy on yourself. Do the groundwork first. If you’re prepared for work, you’ll work more effectively. Preparation might include
- de-cluttering your workspace: clutter can be distracting
- ensuring there’s food in the fridge/freezer: the healthier, the better: cooking one-pot meals ahead means that you won’t have to think too hard about feeding yourself /the family while you’re working towards your deadline.
- putting aside any jobs which are not strictly necessary. Allow yourself to let some standards slide a little, in order to achieve something important. You can catch up later.
- avoidling other distractions: make that essential phonecall; turn off emails/social media alerts for a set period of time.
Make a start!
Sounds obvious, but it can be the biggest challenge. Once you’ve started, you’ll crack it. Make a short list starting with your end goal. Then think about the first thing you could do towards getting there. Then just do it. You’ll be motivated by the momentum this creates.
Give yourself regular breaks. Studies of the brain show that once you begin to struggle with a task, it’s not productive to make yourself sit for hours and continue to struggle. The longer you try to do this, the less effective you become. If you hit a “wall”, stop, take a break, get some fresh air, do something else to refresh your poor old pre-frontal cortex. Then, importantly, get back to it.
You have a best time of day for optimum working. (see my blog Lark or Night Owl? ) Use it wisely. Work in chunks of time. Plan a reward for when you’ve met your deadline.
If circumstances conspire against you, be prepared to re-negotiate. You will have achieved something. You will also have gained valuable knowledge to use for next time. “Deadline” is such a final word, isn’t it? I prefer “target”. Everyone can hit the bullseye with experience.