Deadlines are the Devil

ReykjavikClock

Deadlines are either a wonderful goals to meet or looming executioners. Either way, you need to know how to get to them in one piece, preferably with completed work in tow. So how do you do that without losing your sanity? What if you’ve already procrastinated? Many people will tell you many different ways, each might work for you. This is how I do it: how I tackle the monster.

First I figure out how much work I have to do. For me, this usually boils down to word count. For others it might be research and then word count. It really depends upon what sort of work you’re doing. Either way, you figure out about how much time it will take you, over all, to complete your work. Then you take into account the deadline. This will make the density of your work day known. For some people it could be a couple of hours each day. For some people it’s more like a full-time job.

Now that you know the density of your work day(s), keep in mind that breaks are a necessity. If you have a lighter work day, try to do your work in increments of 20-10’s. This means you work for twenty minutes without stopping and then you get a ten minute break to do whatever needs doing. In this style you could even switch out what work you’re doing, if you’re in a more densely packed work time: twenty minutes spent researching, ten minutes spent writing. You might find that this sort of “interruption” is actually a great way to keep focused during those twenty minutes. This style has been adopted, in particular, by “Unfuck Your Habitat” which is a motivational blog dedicated to cleaning around the home. As far as what types of breaks you might need to take: food breaks, staying comfortable is good, so I recommend eating as normal and perhaps keeping some yummy, healthy snacks next to you while you work; water breaks, which if you keep a bottle of water next to you while you work, you might not need so much; potty breaks, don’t disrupt the natural course of your body just to get some work done; exercise/stretching breaks, if taking a jog or a walk sounds like a stress-relief, do it, or if a good stretching session is necessary I recommend looking up some lazy yoga moves to help you out; animal-petting breaks, these are crucial and should never be skipped over if one can help it.

As far as getting rid of distractions goes, I’ve mastered the art. Get some good old noise-canceling headphones, some music and don’t let yourself get distracted by Tumblr, Youtube, or Facebook. I know you want to, but focus. Especially if you give yourself a goal—this is where the twenty minute increments are helpful—then you will find that you can make it to the end of that goal before you need to take that break and start that tv show you’ve been looking forward to. If other people are prone to interrupting and it isn’t urgent, try something like a “do not disturb” sign, or just let them know before you enter the zone that you have a cone of silence around you. Some people have gone so far as to tape signs to themselves or the backs of their chairs with a guide as to what an acceptable interruption is. If that’s your style, go for it!

So now you’ve got the time management side of things down, so you’ll be able to get some work done. If you’re running behind schedule, talk to the person you’re giving your work to. Let them know what has slowed you down and that you have a plan of attack, but it still will be a little overdue. Deadlines can be stressful, looming and scary things. Just keep in mind that they can also be your friend, so you might give yourself a set schedule and seem that much more put together when you hand over your work a day early. Good luck, Audience!

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