Best Practices: Meeting Deadlines May Not Be Exciting, But It's Essential

By , Columnist

One thing that 12+ years in school teaches us is that deadlines are important, and all those years of practice should, theoretically, help us get better at coping with time-limited tasks. But deadlines change as we get older (unless you're a writer, and then you still have papers due on a regular basis!); you have tax deadlines, bill due dates, and time-sensitive work assignments that are often heavily influenced by your colleagues. But, whether personal or professional, know that all deadlines can be effectively met if you do a few things to set yourself up for success. Read on for a few basic ways to get really good at meeting deadlines.

Prioritize and Plan

Outline what needs to be done first, from basic prep to final touches. From there, figure out how long it should take you to complete each step.

Then, plan backwards from your deadline, adding a few days to however long you think the task will take you to allow for any unexpected obstacles. Plot out your timeline on Google Calendar or a white board, or even place sticky notes in strategic locations around the house. Basically, do whatever works so that strategic points in your plan don't conveniently slip your mind.

Develop a Mild Case of OCD

More than one OCD "sufferer" has said (and I've found this to be true, myself) that while obsessiveness may be problematic in some ways, it's a trait that's absolutely golden when it comes to work. Think about how it feels to get a song stuck in your head - total pain in the butt, right? But you keep going back to it time and again until you finally either listen to it or look up the lyrics to find that one that you just can't remember or until another song comes along. This can also be a great way to approach work; resolve to zero all your concentration in on one task and refuse to let it go until you're finished.

Find Out What Helps You Concentrate

That's great, you say, but I'm kind of ADD, lack patience, or am just not anal enough to take on OCD. Not a problem! What it comes down to, then, is figuring out what trips the switch in your brain that gives you tunnel-vision. Some common ways to focus are auditory (depending on the person, silence, white noise, or different types of music can help your sharpen your concentration at a given time).

Other ways to improve your concentration: the perform-and-reward method (rewarding yourself with something good staying focused for X amount of time), avoiding procrastination, and also avoiding the temptation to multitask. It's also worth noting that getting enough sleep and eating well will help keep your head in the game.

If you start to feel stuck or brain-fried, don't be afraid to take a break - walk around the building, go get coffee, talk to a friend for a moment - but budget out your pauses so you don't lose sight of your ultimate goal: finishing the task.

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Emmie Scott is an English major-turned-marketing exec, with a passion for writing, humor, sharing knowledge, and "pink drinks." After hours, she started Are Toe Rings Professional Attire?, a blog for college grads and twenty-somethings looking to find their way through that daunting labyrinth called…

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