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Reducing the Stress of a Deadline

June 29, 2010

As an Mechanical Design Engineer, or Project Manager, I am all too familiar with the stress that comes with program deadlines.  Even now, after years in the profession, I still have to fight the temptation to leave early for the day, clean up my desk, or sort through emails rather than begin work on an urgent assignment.  It’s like my head has to get around the issue before I can jump in.  It’s perfectly natural to postpone the inevitable.  Millions of folks do it every day.  Unfortunately, it doesn’t get the job done.  😦  [tweetmeme source=”@Aidan_Foley” only_single=false]

Managing your workload, and priorities is, of course, essential to avoiding unnecessary stress, and procrastination.  Both need to be eliminated in order to manage your high priority tasks of your projects efficiently.  When we are stressed, we tend to work much more ineffectively, and what we do produce can be full of errors, so follow my tips on avoiding deadline stress, and watch your productivity flourish as a result.

Tip 1):  Think about the deliverable, not how to get started.

Write down the biggies.  I like to call them the Who, What, Why, When, Where, and How of the deliverable.  It’s whatever you need to complete the task and/or project.  Be honest with yourself, and perhaps err on the side of caution, and estimate the job at an average pace because things always come up.  Try to not think about the start, and work backwards.

Tip 2):  Review your effort regularly. 

It is best to review your project each day to access your progress, and also to deal with any issues.  Your work is always for a client, whether internal or external, so don’t hesitate to contact them with any questions.  Unanswered questions will only raise your stress levels, and hinder your productivity, so make sure you have all the details you need in order to do the job well.

Tip 3):  Break it down to achievable and measurable deliverables.

It is a good idea to break your project down into bite-sized steps.  Remember the question, How do you eat an elephant?  One bite at a time, right?  🙂  This stops you from feeling overwhelmed by the thought of authoring that 30+ page analysis, or listing all of the tasks for that 1,000+ line item schedule.  Taking baby steps will soon add up, and you will be surprised as to how much you accomplished.

Tip 4):  Work out your priorities.

It goes without saying that we all wish to produce high quality work.  But, are you having anxiety over small, rather insignificant details to the detriment of the project as a whole?  Perfectionism is something that we all strive for, yet it is sometimes elusive because of the given time period.

Hopefully, these simple tips will let you know that you’re not alone.  Others have, and will continue to go through deadline stress.  Reducing it will lead to better, and better success!

What do you do to reduce deadline stress?

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