As we near the end of my series of articles on sources of negative stress, we will explore the common stressor: deadlines. Deadlines can certainly add to your sense of stress, especially if there is a lot at stake: perhaps your reputation, or a valued customer, or an important sale which is the difference between making target or not.
Yet, without deadlines, tasks can stretch to fill the time available. And, of course, if there is no deadline, the time available is all the time in the world. That is until the consequences are felt too strongly and too late to do anything about it.
There are five main questions to consider about deadlines:
In the scheme of things, does it take priority over everything else? Sometimes deadlines are pretty arbitrary.
Action: If there are no negative consequences, and there are more pressing priorities, renegotiate the deadline and stick to it. Always make sure it is achievable.
Are you sure this is the most important priority right now?
Action: Then reschedule or reallocate your competing priorities in order to make this happen. Whenever deadlines are set you always need to consider whether it is possible and reasonable.
Do you have to be the one who does it?
Action: If you can delegate it, do. Make sure the person has the right skillset, capacity and motivation to do it, give them what they need and let them get on with it. Delegation is a skill that can benefit you and the individual you are delegating to – it can enhance their skills and build trust between you if done well. Remember that delegation is not about abdication so do check in at agreed points to make sure it is on track.
Are there always too many deadlines?
Action. If this is true, you are either doing this to yourself, in which case, time to be really honest and realistic about what is achievable and get really good about estimating how long something takes. I always build in contingency time when I commit to a deadline because I know there is always a myriad of things that will happen between then and now that will try to delay me. If the deadlines are imposed by others, you probably need to learn the subtle art of negotiation so you are not blindly accepting responsibility to achieve something unachievable and thereby setting yourself up for failure.
Are you a procrastinator?
Action: It’s really important to look at what is driving this behaviour so you can get underneath and through it, otherwise you will constantly find deadlines a struggle. The most common reasons are fear of failure and fear of success. But there are many more and space does not allow me to go into any more depth on this. A great first question to ask yourself is “If I knew the cause of this procrastination, what would it be?” Then wait for the answer and find an alternative way of meeting that need.
Remember that deadlines can really help focus the mind on what’s important. It’s up to you to make sure you set realistic expectations so the ability to assert yourself, plan and manage your time will be key to making this more of a motivational factor than a stressful one.
You don’t have to do this alone.
As ever, it is often easier to work through these issues with a professional. Why not get in touch to find out how I can make this easier for you? You’ll be glad you did.
To your success.
© Tricia Woolfrey