Deadlines—everyone has them, whether they want to admit it or not. For some, the deadline is making sure that they have a certain article finished by publication time; for others, a deadline means that having to get over to their kid's school on time. Whatever the reason, working with deadlines is a common practice. Unfortunately, many people have the same misconception about deadlines. They are not something to be feared, but rather something to be embraced. Here are a few guidelines that can help you get a little more organized in your life by working with deadlines.
- Deadlines have power. Have you ever noticed how a project, task, or item that needs to be finished by a certain time invariably gets finished? This is because of the power that deadlines have. There is an almost unconscious urge, and sometimes very conscious pressure, to get things done quickly if there is a deadline attached.
- Be realistic. If you are willing to work with deadlines, there is one thing that you need to be above all else, and that is realistic. Deadlines can be extremely helpful as long as they are realistic. For example, giving yourself one week to build a rocket ship to the moon is by no means of the imagination realistic. However, setting yourself a time limit of one hour to write about 400 words for a report is totally acceptable and reasonable.
- Be prepared. One of the keys to working with deadlines is to be prepared. Be prepared to follow through with them since they are a commitment. Basically a deadline is a promise to yourself and others that you will have a project completed by a certain time. Be ready to follow through with that commitment. Another way that you need to be prepared is to ensure that you have all the tools necessary to complete the task on hand in a timely manner. For example, if you have a deadline to finish building a deck in your back yard in the next three days, it is a little hard to get the job done if you don't have the lumber, tools, or nails necessary.
- Limit distractions. Without a doubt the bane of all deadlines is distractions, and they must be eliminated if at all possible, and at the very least limited. Simply put, a distraction is anything that will take your attention away from the task at hand. For example, answering a phone may not seem like much of a distraction at first. However, if you add up the time it takes to stop your work, answer the phone, talk to the person on the other end of the line, hang up, and then get back to work you would be surprised at exactly how much time has been lost. On average a simple 30 second yes or no conversation can actually eat up about 5 minutes of work time. Multiply this throughout the day and you can see exactly how quickly distractions can add up.
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