A lot of us are usually overcome with excitement at the prospect of a new job or taking on a new challenge. Unfortunately, the novelty does not last very long when we get hit with wave after wave of deadlines.
Not everyone is mentally or physically capable of handling that. With every assignment we fail to complete, report we forget to turn in and meeting we arrive late to, we push ourselves further into the wormhole.
How do you turn this situation around? How do you stay on top of the situation and accomplish all of your tasks in good time? Here are a few tips.
1. Do not rely on mental notes
You might have amazing brain power, but you still shouldn't trust it to hold every little piece of necessary information. The avalanche of tasks you have to complete daily at the office often puts us under a lot of pressure.
Whenever a new job arrives at your desk, don't just make a mental note of it and go about your duties. Schedule it in your calendar immediately, with duration and due dates indicated. This provides a task map that clearly represents the chronological order of your responsibilities. Also, use task-reminder apps to help you stay on alert about your duties. That way, even if your mental note fails you, you can always rely on your trusty calendar.
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2. Now is the right time
If there is a project on your desk, do it immediately if possible. Yes, we set start and end times for every project, but it doesn't make any sense to put something off if you don't have to.
That way, you can stay ahead of time and lessen the risk of not meeting your deadlines. It also creates a buffer period that will allow you much-needed time to retrace your steps if you derail or make a mistake while handling the project.
3. Break down your project
Don't look at the big picture of a project. Instead, it helps to fragment the project -- to break the big picture into smaller digestible units. Then, set miniature deadlines for each of these tasks and tackle them one after the other.
As you accomplish each task, you will feel a sense of accomplishment, which will fuel you to take on the next challenge with vigor and determination. By working in this piecemeal fashion, you will achieve the objective of the bigger picture without getting bogged down by it.
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4. Work in terms of urgency, not importance
When scheduling tasks in your calendar, start from the one with the closest due date. It may not be as important as subsequent tasks, but if its time of completion is shorter, that is all that matters. Besides, you need to get everything done, anyway, so might as well start at the start.
If you are so bothered about the more important tasks, do your best to complete the preceding tasks as quickly as possible so you can finally start work on more pertinent issues.
5. Shut the door on distractions
While you have control over how you fragment projects, schedule activities and prioritize tasks, it's often hard to anticipate or plan for distractions.
No matter how important these may seem, these distractions will ultimately only serve to slow you down. Try to avoid as many of these interruptions as possible by delegating your other responsibilities to your most trusted and capable employees. Shut off your phone and internet connection.
You can even leave the office and check yourself into a resort if you have to, but make sure that these steps ensure zero distractions and interruptions.
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6. Always plan one step further.
I personally see project deadlines as the same as making travel plans. You wouldn't just hop on a plane without planning, and I don’t wait until the last minutes before I begin planning my project deadlines.
Sometimes, these two things can intersect. For example, I need to travel to other countries for business meetings. And, for a little while, I used to miss these meetings or arrive at locations haphazardly due to hectic schedules. Now, though, I personally pay and handle all my flight issues in advance using Justfly.
Planning ahead is always a good idea. Not only will it help you meet diverse deadlines, but you’ll end up ahead of future ones, too.
Kc Agu is a startup consultant, a success coach, public speaker, an investor and a freelance writer.