Taking Stress Out of Our Deadlines
Stress is truly ironic. It’s our body’s way to respond to dangerous situations. In the early days of man, when a warring tribe attacked, stress made you either want to fight back or retreat – the “fight or flight” reflex. Stress was the ultimate motivation to survive, and it has helped us advance to where we are today.
However, we respond to our first-world problems with a similar type of response, and as our environments have changed and we are increasingly interconnected between home, work, and our social lives outside each, we can be overloaded with stress. Too much stress makes you lose all motivation, which in turn makes you more stressed. How can one defeat this cycle, especially if you have a strict deadline? You can’t procrastinate or spend too much time relieving your stress, so how can you make some quick changes that will start benefitting you quickly?
Make a Schedule
Say you have to write a 2,000-word paper, and it’s due within a week. Instead of procrastinating and doing it all at once, which will worsen the resulting rushed work, intentionally break the work up into little bits. Do 500 words every day for four days, take a break from your paper for a day, and spend the remaining two days revising and editing your paper. Although other situations will not be as cut-and-dry as this, the same principles can be applied to anything that has a defined deadline. You should have a set time to start your project, and set a good, realistic daily goal based on when you decide you should have the project completed. Going into a stressful project without a plan can backfire.
Pulling an all-nighter or a few late nights in a row to get what you need to be completed may sound tempting in the short-term, but can be harmful in the long run. Plan to get the optimal amount of sleep every day (not just the days where you don’t have any deadlines to meet!), and this will improve your general stress levels, as well as your performance on your project. If stress is keeping you awake at night, establish a sleep routine that focuses on stress-relief such as meditation before bed, a cup of decaffeinated tea before bed, or even reading 30 minutes before turning the lights out.
Don’t Forget Breaks
Even if you’re in a groove and feel like you don’t need to stop, there comes a time when a break itself may be the best way to keep yourself on track. Working for too long burns you out and can negatively affect your ability to perform. Instead, make smaller, realistic checkpoint goals and take short breaks in between. Change your scenery and walk outside to relieve tension. Stretch a little. You’ll be glad you did.
Ask for an Extension
Sometimes, the project you’re doing can’t be done by the deadline because there aren’t enough resources, there isn’t enough time, or the quality won’t be optimal. Don’t be afraid to ask for or negotiate a better due date. Explain the situation calmly and rationally. Sometimes, an extension isn’t feasible. If that’s the case, come up with some alternative solutions that you can present to your team or management to help satisfy both your and your colleagues’ concerns.
Don’t Drink Too Much Caffeine
Drinking some coffee as part of your morning routine or moderately through the day is perfectly fine, but if you think chugging energy drinks will improve your performance, it probably won’t. What will happen is that you will end up crashing, and this will make you feel even more stressed. Eat and drink healthy, and you’ll see a difference in your performance.
Prior to your next big undertaking, start thinking about preventive measures against stress. If you know that you tend to get stressed easily, get ahead of it by incorporating exercise more in your day, schedule some massage appointments to look forward to, learn to meditate, or even consider speaking to a therapist.
Stress can be, well, stressful, but by organizing your projects as well as your approach to stress, you can meet your deadlines with a stronger deliverable (and feel better doing it too).
Marie Miguel has been a writing and research expert for nearly a decade, covering a variety of health- related topics. Currently, she is contributing to the expansion and growth of a free online mental health resource with BetterHelp.com. With an interest and dedication to addressing stigmas associated with mental health, she continues to specifically target subjects related to anxiety and depression.