How to never miss a deadline again

You’re feeling overwhelmed, you’re feeling like you do not have enough hours in a day to get through all the work in time to meet a deadline. Whether it’s for work or for an assignment, we’ve all been there. After four years of being comfortable with handing my uni work in a few hours (or days, or weeks late (I was notorious), I’ve finally found the tools that work for me to never hand a piece of work in late again and I thought I’d share them with you in case you also struggle with meeting deadlines.

One. It’s starts from the beginning. The biggest mistake anyone can make is to underestimate how long a task may take and choosing to start later. If something is due in two weeks, but you think it looks ‘easy’, I implore, please, just start it now and don’t leave it until the last minute.

Two. Make sure you understand. What is the task asking of you? What do you need to achieve to produce a quality result? Sometimes, we don’t even realise that we’re not on the right track so it’s always beneficial to have a conversation about it. Sending confirmation emails where you reiterate the task back to your manager or your client is an easy and professional way to go.

If you are doing an assignment, ask the teacher or a class mate, although sometimes the best person to ask for advice is a tutor. Yes, they do cost extra, but think about the money you have already invested in your studies, spending a little more to increase your chances of a higher grade is worth it.

Three. Set a goal. I can’t stress how important this is. Visualising that you will meet a goal takes you half way to the finish line. It can be as simple as ‘I will submit this early’ or ‘I will pass’ and often, the simpler the more likely you will reach your goal. This is important because it gives you something to focus on as you undergo your task— especially when it gets tough.

Make sure your goal is something that is in your control and objective, for example ‘hand in my task so my boss likes me’ isn’t an achievable goal. One, your boss ‘liking’ you is subjective, there is no way to know whether your goal has been reached. Two, there is no guarantee that your boss will like you for achieving a task that they have set you. This will make you feel like you’ve failed, even if you have completed your work.

Four. Break it down. With your goal in mind, and the deadline far enough for you to achieve your task without compromising your sanity, you can now divide your workload into manageable chunks and allocate them to each day. Make sure to keep in mind if you have any other commitments you need to work on.

If this is an assignment, always, always, always leave double the amount of time you allocate for research. One day for research is not enough and you know it, you need to make sure you have so much juicy content because it’s easier to take words away, than try to add information once it’s too late. Also, make sure you have time allocated for editing and revision. Once your assignment is done, print it out, read it out loud and highlight any mistakes you have made. This makes for the most effective form of editing.

Five. Hold yourself accountable. The biggest part about meeting a deadline, is saying no to yourself. No to putting more tasks on your plate, no to that pub crawl your friends just invited you to, definitely no to ‘quickly’ checking out what’s on Instagram. It’s contagious and you will still be scrolling through cute dog videos two hours later. Once you have achieved your task for the day, then feel free to zone out in any way that you like. But while you are staying focused, the only break you should be taking is to the bathroom, the fridge, or outside for fresh air.

What works for me is asking myself ‘is this really worth it?’ when I feel as though I am slacking off. Is this meme really worth handing my assignment in late? Sometimes the answer is yes, and I will respect that. But most of the time, it brings me back to my goal, and my desire to meet it.

If, for example, you can’t say no to another task (because teachers all assess at the same time), don’t let yourself fail and ask for an extension for the task you feel the least comfortable in. Most of the time, they should be understanding. If they ask for a medical certificate, don’t be afraid to go to a nurse and say your stress levels are high, they will always understand and give you a medical certificate for your assessments.

Six. Ride the wave. Let’s say you’ve already completed your task for the day, but you’re still feeling switched on. Keep. Going. If you’re feeling inspired or ready for more, let that ball keep rolling. There is nothing worse than trying to work on something when you are feeling uninspired or unproductive. Working when you want to work, even if that means meeting your deadline early is always the best way to go. You can always take a break when you retire.

Seven. The wall of fame. Make sure to reward yourself after you’ve met a deadline, especially if you are notorious at missing them. This doesn’t have to be special, but I find that writing all the tasks I’ve successfully done on a white board, or piece of paper and putting it where I can see it reminds me of the awesome streak I’ve got going on. Knowing that I’ve submitted five assignments in on time makes me more likely to want to add to that wall of fame, and not to my wall of shame.

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