Listicle: How to keep stress at bay when working to deadlines
Only assign deadlines to work that matters and create mini deadlines for larger projects
If you realise that you’ll miss a deadline or that an item is no longer a priority, be up front with the person who made the request
With the right strategies, you can get a productivity boost from deadlines without the stress. Here are three best practices:
1 Assign deadlines to work that matters
We often feel pressured to assign a timeline for a project or task even when we don’t need to. If something isn’t a high priority, don’t set a deadline.
When others ask, say, “I’ve added it to my to-do list.” Also, avoid giving unnecessarily specific deadlines.
But if an activity is a high priority and you sense that it may get pushed aside, set a deadline. Make that deadline public by sharing it with a colleague or your manager, or by scheduling a progress meeting. Then pace yourself. Instead of setting one completion date, create minideadlines for pieces of larger projects.
2 Plan for contingencies
Setting a personal deadline a day or two before the actual deadline ensures that if anything takes longer than expected, you can still wrap it up the next day and not stress out.
It also helps to assume that others will be late. When possible, ask for items 24 to 48 hours in advance so there’s a buffer.
3 Keep stakeholders informed
Whenever there’s an issue that could impact your ability to meet a milestone, communicate. Depending on the project, you may be able to adjust deadlines as long as you keep the stakeholders updated.
For others, particularly external clients, you can set expectations that if others don’t meet their deadlines, it will lead to a timeline adjustment.
If you realise that you’ll miss a deadline or that an item is no longer a priority, be up front with the person who made the request. Being transparent is much better for your stress level and the client relationship. – Copyright Harvard Business Review 2016
Previously published in The Irish Times.
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