Deadlines are a universal necessity in every industry. However, they come with a looming sense of pressure that can leave us feeling anxious, stressed and overwhelmed. No doubt, these feelings can take a toll on our productivity and our health.
Fortunately, there are ways to ease your nerves and make work feel more manageable. We’ve gathered six to consider.
1. Create a checklist
It’s normal to feel overwhelmed when you have a heavy workload and tight deadlines. So normal, in fact, that 83% of Americans say they are stressed at work.
We can chip away at that scary statistic by making projects more manageable. Start by making a checklist to get a handle on what needs to be done. Organizing your tasks and creating structure around them feels good. And, there’s an added bonus: checking off completed tasks will show that you’re making progress, hopefully relieving some pressure.
2. Prioritize the most difficult tasks
Review the checklist you made. Which tasks will you take on first? Research on workplace productivity conducted at the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University shows that people naturally gravitate toward the easy tasks on their to-do lists—think jotting a quick email or returning a call— yet, choosing to tackle the most challenging ones is a better idea. Why? It gives an almost immediate sense of accomplishment, which motivates us to do more.
So instead of knocking out the little stuff first, choose the tasks that take the longest or require the most brainpower. Another tip: Review your list to see which tasks are essential to the project and strike the ones that are just nice to have.
3. Create fake deadlines
Is your project due by the end of day Friday? Instead of planning to deliver at 5 pm that day, plan for finishing at the end of the day Thursday. It may sound ridiculous to give your stressed-out self an even tighter deadline, but the reality is that it can save you a lot of stress and increase the odds of you meeting the actual deadline. And, it’s nice to have more time if you end up needing it.
4. Leverage your tech stack to create efficiencies
Does your company leverage any technology that can help you save time? Consider leveraging a project management tool like Asana or Workfront to help your team collaborate or try a communication tool like Slack to get quick info and feedback while reducing the number of emails you send and meetings you schedule.
Having trouble finding the files you need? Instead of storing assets on individual computers, consider investing in a cloud-based solution, like a digital asset management tool, so everyone can easily and quickly find what they need.
5. Take a quick break
This may sound counterintuitive for meeting deadlines, but sometimes it helps to stop and walk away for a little while. Go on a quick walk, go outside to get some fresh air, or go grab a coffee.
Not convinced? A study by the Draugiem Group found that employees who took consistent breaks were more productive than their peers. The study concluded the ideal work rhythm was 52 minutes of work followed by a 17-minute break.
6. Ask for help
Deadlines can feel a lot more stressful if you’re facing them alone. Don’t be afraid to raise your hand and ask your colleagues to help you out.
It’s important to remember that to receive help, you have to ask. In fact, estimates suggest that 75% to 90% of the help coworkers give each other is in response to a direct ask. What are you waiting for?
Unfortunately, high-pressure deadlines are never going to vanish. So, leverage the tools you have, take a deep breath, and control what you can. There’s a lot you can do to feel better about your workload and the deadlines attached to it.