Do you have a problem with meeting deadlines? Does looking at your calendar make you nervous?

The word deadline is currently so popular that everyone in the working world hears it multiple times per day. Even if you are not working and just searching for a new job, there are deadlines for applications. Today, when I opened my Facebook page, I saw a meme with the great Olympian Usain Bolt with his fabulous smile running from competitors who were captioned as “deadlines”.

In fact, I wonder how many modern employees of high class companies have an idea where this word came from. The story behind it is really interesting.

The term “deadline” originated from prison camps during war and referred to a physical line or boundary. It was intended to prevent prisoners from climbing over the stockade or from tunneling under it. Guards would shoot any prisoner who crossed the deadline. This is horrifying, isn’t it?

Luckily, nowadays nobody will shoot us for touching the line, but it could hurt our careers. Not only can we lose our clients if we miss a deadline, but we could lose our job or a chance for a new one. And finding new employment without first establishing a good relationship with time limits may be very hard.

So, how to handle deadlines? We all would love to be as fast as Usain Bolt to run from them, but we must know our limits. Here are some tips:

1. Prepare – Select Your Tasks Wisely

Be rational. Try to predict how much time the project might last. Maybe you did something similar some time ago? Compare the tasks and assume it may take longer than you expect. Check if the client or your supervisor has given a viable deadline. If not – try to negotiate. Many of deadlines might be moved without any consequences, as it’s just a matter of communication. That will give you more control over when things are due, enable you to meet more of your deadlines, and cause less stress.

2. It’s All about Time Management – and Rewards

Plan your tasks. Try to identify what are the main steps of your project and what needs to be done at each step. Try to schedule tasks in real time, divide them for hour-long sections, and create a meeting in your Outlook calendar for each hour. It is said that the most successful managers plan every minute of their day. Plan first, and then focus only on your task. During a project’s scheduled time, do not answer your phone or emails. But most importantly, plan a short break after every task – it will be a kind of reward for your hard work, and rewards are what our brains like the most.

3. You are Stuck, What’s Next?

This can be a time-manager’s worst nightmare. Take a deep breath. Looking thoughtlessly at your monitor for the next few hours won’t bring you anything good. Drink some water and go for a brief walk if you can. A bit of movement and fresh air will wake you up and refresh your thoughts.

Are you back and still stuck? Ask a colleague for advice. Come on, it’s not a shame to admit that you don’t know how to do something! It should be less painful than admitting that you didn’t finish your work on time. If you are running out of time, ask others on your team to do some of your easier tasks.

4. What to do When the Deadline Has Come?!

Imagine the following situation: despite your hard work, you missed the due date. What’s next? Keep going, of course! Do not make excuses, especially phony ones like “my dog ate my homework”. Notify your supervisor that you will need a bit more time. Continue your work but a bit faster. Communicate, and then keep working to improve – this is the best thing you can do at this point.

And if You Are a Procrastinator…

Procrastinators wait until the very last day, then work incessantly for 24 hours to submit a project at the very last minute. That creates a lot of stress and a lack of sleep. Your project is not-so-good, because you didn’t have time to review it, and this can have a big impact on your professional life. You didn’t use the occasion to show off your master skills and you won’t be noticed in your business environment. However, learning to appropriately handle deadlines can influence your career for the best. Always be aware of deadlines and follow the tips above, and your career should start progressing in no time.