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How to Stay on Top of Deadlines

Updated on June 2, 2022Professionals

The word “deadline” conjures up a cocktail of emotions—namely, worry and dread. To help reframe that thinking, here are some key ways to approach deadlines to make them less daunting, and more doable.

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1 Write it down

The first is simple. Whether you keep track of events on your Google Calendar, or with old-school paper and pen, write down your deadlines somewhere you will see and remember them. The biggest issue with timelines is often keeping track of them, so stay organized and keep your deadline written in plain sight.

2 Allow yourself some wiggle room

Procrastination isn’t a good habit, but it’s human. Do yourself a favor and avoid last-minute panic by giving yourself a few days of buffer time from when the project is actually due. If you tell yourself to finish something by Wednesday that’s actually due on Friday, you’ll be ahead of the game—and you’ll have a couple extra days to edit and refine your work.

>>READ MORE: What Type of Writer are You?

3 Get going

No matter how long you stare at your screen, your assignment won’t do itself. But the hardest part of a project is often getting started. Even if it’s just a simple brainstorm or outline of ideas, taking the first step will diminish built-up worries and will make the rest of the process flow more easily. 

4 Break it up

A surefire route to burnout is saving everything for the last minute. If you’ve ever ignored the first three tips and have found yourself in a frenzy at the eleventh hour, you know that preparation is everything. While your deadline looms at a comfortable distance in the future, create windows of time when you can chip away at the project without leaving too much for the last minute.

5 Communicate along the way

When you receive an assignment from a manager or colleague, don’t be afraid to ask questions. If you’re unclear on expectations or need help fleshing out an idea, it’s better to consult with your stakeholders as early as possible rather than causing disappointment or extra work later. As your deadline approaches, keep lines of communication open so that your manager knows where you’re at. 

6 Give plenty of notice

If you’re struggling with the allotted time, or if life throws a curveball that steers you off-course, don’t panic. Reach out to your manager as soon as you realize you may be unable to meet the deadline. Chances are, they’d prefer to receive a well-done project a day or two later than expected than receive a rushed or incomplete product. When in doubt, communicate.

7 Don’t lose sleep

The brain works best when the body is rested. Rather than pulling an all-nighter to meet a deadline, aim to give yourself a solid night’s sleep and set an earlier alarm to polish up in the morning. Sleep is good for your project, too—a fresh set of eyes is more likely to catch any stray errors or opportunities to make your writing more concise before you hit “Submit.”

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