Don’t let the stress of deadlines wear you down. Once you know how to manage them, you can make deadlines work for you.
Some people thrive on deadlines while others are sent into a mental panic by the mere thought of them — as a writer, my very living depends on meeting them. Here are some tactics I’ve learned to make the pressure work to my advantage without any stress-induced headaches.
1. Take your deadlines seriously.
Though some people swear that they are more productive under tight deadline pressure, I’m not one of them. Research backs me up — brain mapping shows that deadlines up your stress level and hamper creative thinking. Don’t leave your task to the last minute when you will be rushed and more likely to make careless errors.
2. Schedule a meditation break.
When you’re furiously trying to accomplish a task on a deadline, taking quiet time out to meditate may be the last thing you want to do. But plentiful research shows that meditation is effective at lowering your heart rate, reducing stress and can increase your ability to concentrate and stoke creativity. Find a place to sit quietly for a few minutes to clear your mind.
Even if meditation seems daunting, the act of taking a break can be helpful in getting through the day and getting your work done.
“Take frequent pauses and breaths throughout the day and remain mindful,” said Rick A. Friedman, MD, PhD, professor of otolaryngology – head and neck surgery at Keck School of Medicine and division director of otology, neurotology and skull base surgery in the USC Tina and Rick Caruso Department of Otolaryngology – Head and Neck Surgery. “By taking frequent pauses, your body is able to reset and stay calm throughout the day. This helps to eliminate the increased pulse rate and blood pressure associated with anxiety.”
3. Get moving.
Another way you can quickly refresh is to take a short walk to your favorite coffee shop or park, but follow a different route than you normally do. I find that the change of scenery shakes me out of my virtual rut and getting up and away from your desk is always good for your health.
4. Set mini deadlines.
To help any job feel more manageable and keep my stress in check, I break tasks down step by step, then set my own mini deadlines for deliverables. For example, when I have a big story due, I set an earlier deadline that dictates when I should have my research wrapped up, giving myself ample time to write the story before the due date. Having a self-induced deadline can help you feel more focused and less open to distractions and procrastination.
5. Recognize that no decision is final.
If you’re struggling to make a decision key to your deadline — be it choosing a kitchen tile so your renovations can be completed on time to figuring out where you can make budget cuts before the end of the quarter — it can help to keep in mind that you can re-evaluate your decision later. By lightening the pressure of the decision, you may find yourself more ready to act.
Know that getting the job done is sometimes more important than getting it perfect. Yes, you always want to do your best work, but there are times when it’s more important to complete the job than it is to have it flawless. For example, when I was on staff at a celebrity weekly covering red carpets during award season, the most important elements were getting the facts right and getting the story turned in, not so much editing and re-editing for nuanced writing that might go into a celebrity profile.
If you are in the Los Angeles area and are looking for exceptional care from some of the top physicians in the world, be sure to schedule an appointment by calling (800) USC-CARE (800–872–2273) or by visiting http://www.keckmedicine.org/request-an-appointment/.
By Anne Fritz