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Dealing With High-Pressure Deadlines

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Dom graham

Published on 10th October 2019

Deadlines are a universal necessity in every industry, ensuring work gets done, and projects get delivered on time. However, they come with a looming sense of pressure that can leave us feeling anxious, stressed, and overwhelmed. When a deadline is thrown on top of a mountainous workload, reaching it can seem insurmountable. 

Deadline pressure is something that many of us face. In fact, according to a recent survey, deadlines are the most common source of professional anxiety. Since deadlines are unavoidable, it’s vital that you learn how to deal with pressure situations. If you let the pressure get to you, it can have a severe effect on your mental health and your ability to achieve in the workplace. When you feel threatened, your nervous system kicks in and releases stress hormones, making it even harder to focus on the job at hand.

Fortunately, there are things you can do to help you work under pressure and reach deadlines without letting your anxiety sky-rocket. Read on for some top tips on how to work under pressure, so you can take control of our deadlines, focus on your work, and feel more empowered. 

Planning Your Work and Prioritising Activities

A big part of working under pressure and meeting deadlines is knowing how to plan your work. It’s easy for your to-do list to get longer and longer, and when the pressure is on, it can be overwhelming. However, taking an active approach to planning your workload and preparing for busy periods can make deadlines a lot easier to manage. 

To plan your work more effectively and help you focus on the most critical activities, consider:

  • Prioritizing – when you’re busy, you need to focus on the most important tasks. Consider whether each task relieves pressure, creates time, and moves the business, or your job, forward. If a task doesn’t do any of these, it might need to be postponed. 
  • Breaking tasks down – a project can seem overwhelming as a whole, but by breaking it down into individual tasks, it can become much more manageable. This will help you prioritize and delegate. 
  • Making checklists – by slowing down and thinking about all the things you need to do, you can start working through them. Try making a checklist of three things you need to do and then do them. Knowing you’ve ticked some items off the list will relieve some of the pressure and prove that you’re progressing. 
  • Learning to say no – part of the prioritization process is learning how to say no to some tasks. When workloads are mounting, and deadlines are fast-approaching, you need to give yourself some time to breathe. 
  • Creating artificial deadlines – by working towards an earlier date, you can save a lot of stress. It’s like building contingency into a schedule and, if it’s not needed, you’ll be ahead of the game. You need to take your new deadline seriously though, try to meet it and it will help you prioritize. 
  • Stopping procrastinating – by putting off certain tasks when you have more time on your hands, you can make a rod for your own back. Procrastination is a habit and can be hard to break. But, by being persistent, you can force yourself to act rather than resist and ease the pressure later on. 

Asking For Help and Communicating with Your Colleagues

Deadlines can feel a lot more stressful if you feel like you’re facing them alone. While it can be difficult to admit that you’re struggling, asking for help will reduce stress and help you handle pressure situations. 

Communication is key in the workplace, and by asking for help, you’ll find you are more able to achieve both individually and as a team. There are several ways that you can get support from your colleagues:

  • Share your workload – if you ask your colleagues, there may well be a chance that someone has time that they can dedicate to help you with your project.
  • Get advice – by working as a team and asking for help, you might find shortcuts and ways of doing things that will save you time and help you meet your deadlines. 
  • Ask for an extension – a deadline isn’t always set in stone; if you don’t feel able to meet a deadline, it’s worth asking for an extension.
  • Don’t over-promise – communication goes both ways. If you’re given a deadline, don’t immediately say yes if you don’t think it’s achievable. 

Adopting Mindfulness Techniques

With a lot of things in life, it’s a case of mind over matter. Deadlines are no different, with the right mindset, they can seem a lot less daunting. Try taking a few actions to improve your mindset, such as:

  • Taking a break – taking a break may feel like the opposite of what you need to do. However, making time to walk, stretch, and breathe can give you the mental and emotional freedom you need to re-focus. 
  • Being realistic – when a deadline is looming, it’s easy to imagine the worst if it’s not met. The catastrophes you imagine are often just that, imaginary. By being realistic and knowing your deadlines are usually not life or death situations, you can remove a lot of the pressure. 
  • Finding positive actions – to help reduce stress, it can be helpful to focus on what you are achieving and doing right, rather than focusing on the negative. It might be a case of simply finding the humor in a situation to relieve the tension. 

To help with mindfulness and staying calm under pressure, you can download apps, such as Headspace and Calm. Then, when you take your ten-minute break, you can use the app to help you relax and focus. 

Getting Into Good Habits

Building structure, routine, and good habits into our daily lives can go a long way to helping us handle pressure situations. Good habits that can help you deal with high-pressure deadlines include:

  • Getting a good night’s sleep – the health benefits of good sleep are immense. When you are well-rested, you have better memory, stamina, and focus. Try to go to sleep at roughly the same time each night and let your body restore. 
  • Keeping your work area organized – a tidy work area relates to a tidy brain. By keeping everything organized, you reduce the number of distractions and enable yourself to focus on the task at hand. 
  • Eating a healthy and balanced diet – it’s vital to keep our bodies well-nourished with the right types of food. Make sure you don’t skip any meals and keep your body topped up with all the nutrients it needs to keep you on form. 
  • Developing and sticking to a routine – by having routine and structure in your working life, you’ll know what tasks you need to complete and when to reach your deadlines. 

It’s possible to deal with high-pressure deadlines by taking the right approach. Planning your work out, communicating with those around you, and taking an active approach to your working life can make all the difference. By taking control of how you manage pressure, you can turn it to your advantage and achieve more than you thought was possible.