How to Cope With Work Deadlines

Updated on June 14, 2020
Beth Eaglescliffe profile image

I write about employment issues, ways to earn money and how to get best value when spending it.

Do you feel exhausted and worn down by unrealistic work deadlines?
Do you feel exhausted and worn down by unrealistic work deadlines? | Source

Time Pressures Cause Stress

There are never enough hours in the day to get everything done. You frequently change plans at the last minute because you have to stay late at work. You feel guilty when you’re unwell and you struggle into work dosed up with Tylenol or paracetamol.

Does this all sound familiar? Are you struggling with time pressures at work? If so, you need to get your work and life better organized before the Grim Reaper appears.

How to Handle Deadlines at Work

  1. Care about deadlines, and make them a priority.
  2. Keep a list of projects and deadlines.
  3. To get an idea of how long a project will take, break it down into small pieces. For each one, add a small cushion to your time estimate.
  4. Agree a clear outcome, and a start and finish date for each step.
  5. Don't over-commit.
  6. Learn from mistakes.

How to Manage Work Pressure and Reduce Job Stress

Organize and Plan Your Working Week

Work deadlines can usually be foreseen and therefore planned for. There are tasks that must be done on a regular basis like payroll. Other work may be linked to one-off projects. They all require an element of teamwork and cooperation in order for the job to be completed on schedule.

For example, if you work in human resources, your role may be to make sure people submit overtime claims by particular date if they want payment to be included in that month’s pay-run. Proper planning for this type of deadline involves ensuring all managers and staff are aware of the pay-run dates. Your part in the team effort will include informing them that you need the necessary information at least 24 hours (or any other time period you decide) before the payroll date.

Some deadlines are less easy to plan for. A key worker may have an accident at home and be unable to get to work. You might be asked to cover for them and complete a report they were writing at short notice. The only kind of planning you can do for this kind of event is to routinely check that you are up-to-date with your normal workload. Then if you are unexpectedly asked to step into somebody else’s shoes, it shouldn’t create a crisis in your own work-stream.

Your Diary as a Planning Tool

A good habit to adopt is to always write appointments in your work diary. I use this free appointment planner app to remind me of my work schedule. Keeping a diary has a dual purpose. The main one is to ensure you don’t miss key meetings or milestones in your plan of work. It’s also a useful tool for your colleagues if ever they need to pick up the baton from you. If for any reason you are unable to get to work, they will be able to refer to your diary and stand in for you at any important meetings scheduled for that day.

Major project markers can also be added to your work diary. For example, if you are working towards a deadline three months ahead, there will be important dates along the way by which you must have achieved certain things. These could be things like having met and discussed a crucial part of the project with key members of your team. Or it could be that you need to remind yourself to order vital project materials by a particular date.

Tips For Coping With Work Pressures

Stay organized
Use a work diary or wall planner to help you plan targets and milestones
Don't procrastinate
Set (mini) targets and stick to them
Use the skills and experience of work colleagues to help you
Read the project brief
Make sure you have sufficient time and equipment to realistically complete the project
Monitor progress at key milestones
Keep an eye on how each member of the team is progressing towards the common goal

Familiarize Yourself With Project Details

One of the reasons why people get stressed by work deadlines is because they have never really got to grips with the detail of the project. It’s only as the deadline looms that they realize how much more there is to do by the completion date.

A key tip to remaining unstressed is to make sure you don’t just skim read a summary of the requirements of the work project. Instead you should read and make sure you understand what is required at the start of the task. Where appropriate, delegate some of the work to other colleagues and make sure the team works in a cohesive manner towards a common goal.

Alternatively, if you are the junior team member to whom work of been delegated, make sure you properly understand what you have been asked to do. The deadlines set for each part of the project should be realistic. If you feel the time allowed is not sufficient to produce good quality work, it is better to speak up sooner rather than later. There may be some flexibility in the deadline. Or you may be able to redistribute an uneven workload with some of your co-workers.

How To Meet Each and Every One of Your Project Deadlines

Adequate Preparation

Work deadlines can be used to help instead of hinder. Try to view deadlines as your friend rather than as an enemy, they keep a team coordinated and on task. Few people are working in isolation towards a project deadline. There are other team members with whom your work must dovetail. If you’re late completing your tasks, there will be a knock-on effect for the project as a whole.

Team meetings are a good place to raise concerns you may have about meeting a tight deadline. The earlier you ask for help, the easier it will be for the project timetable to be amended. Normally, work projects are given to people who have the appropriate skills and experience to complete them. It’s up to you to alert your manager if you feel you need additional specialist equipment or training in order to complete the job properly.

Performance Monitoring

It’s a good idea to regularly check that the project is proceeding in a timely manner. This is something you can do for your individual part of the project; managers should be monitoring the overall progress of the task.

One way to monitor your own and the team’s performance is to use a wall chart. This is a visual reminder of key “pinch-points” in the project. All team members can see where and by whom slippage in the project timetable is occurring. There’s the opportunity for resources to be diverted from the parts of the project that are performing well, to those that are lagging behind. The aim is to get everybody to the finish line together as a team.

The actions you take impact on other people. Even if you're not part of a formal work-group (like a sales team) your work is still done in cooperation with others. If you make a mistake, no matter how small, there will be a knock-on effect. It's worthwhile to build good working relationships with your co-workers. If you cut them some slack when they make errors, they should return the favor when you've had a bad day.

If you achieve a good work-life balance, you will cope better with stressful situations.
If you achieve a good work-life balance, you will cope better with stressful situations. | Source

Healthy Work-Life Balance

Take time out from your work environment. Make sure you plan social activities and exercise into your busy life schedule. This will help keep work pressures to a minimum and make it easier to cope with work deadlines.

Don't be afraid to take on new challenges and improve your skills. A new interest can refresh your working day. Try raising the subject of extra training and studying for better qualifications with your boss. Improved skills, a job promotion, or a different work environment? All of these can help you maintain a good work-life balance.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.


Submit a Comment
  • Pamela99 profile image

    Pamela Oglesby 

    6 months ago from Sunny Florida

    These are excellent tips to be more efficiency at work and I think they will reduce stress as well. This is a good, well-written article that will help those that read it.

  • Eurofile profile image

    Liz Westwood 

    6 months ago from UK

    These are great tips that can be applied in many different work situations. I rely heavily on my diary planner to keep on track.


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