10 Ways to Deal with Work Deadline Stress

Introduction

Life today is full of a variety of deadlines. These deadlines, especially, at the workplace create stress. Stress is a feeling of emotional or physical tension that tends to make you feel frustrated, angry, or nervous. Stress is your body’s reaction to a challenge or demand. Stress, for a brief time, can be positive, viz., it helps you avoid danger or meet a deadline. Continuous stress harms body, mind, and spirit. Stress is perceived as a “fight/flight” phenomenon. This is, in point of fact, a challengeable proposition. Some aver that stress from deadlines creates in them productivity – hence positive. Others use stress to plan their work program over the time available leading to the deadline, hence programmable.

Why Stress?

When the foregoing propositions are true, we need to examine why stress factors in our working/home life are negative? There are a few reasons for this occurrence. The list below is indicative and not exhaustive:

  • Unrealistic perceptions.
  • Inadequate or faulty planning.
  • Misplaced priorities.
  • Procrastination and distractions – e.g., mobile phones. 
  • Aiming for super perfection that is not called for.

Ways and Means to Deal with Workplace Deadline Stress

Types of Deadlines

Before we embark on how to deal with work deadline stress, we need to understand various types of deadlines: 

  1. Rush – do as quickly as possible e.g., rushing to catch that flight, or train, etc.
  2. One-time – done and dusted; happens to all of us now and then.
  3. Phased – usually at the workplace; jobs converted in phases.
  4. Recurring – an example of long-term work.
  5. Self-imposed – you set deadlines for yourself at the workplace and/or home.
  6. Vicariously imposed – deadlines set for you by others; again at the workplace and/or home.

How to Deal with Workplace Deadline Stress

  1. Does 168 bring to your mind anything? This is the number of hours in a week. This is time available during the week. So, first of all, do not slip into a panic overdrive; be in control or reframe the panic moment. Analyze the various components of the task at hand in a systematic manner, setting parameters of time for each component. This is essential preparation before commencing the task at hand. 
  2. Having analyzed the task at hand, focus on the contents, and not the clock. Success at achieving deadlines without stress hinges on focusing on the task at hand. Emphasis on “watching the clock” is sheer dissipation of energy and would be counterproductive. Beware of clock watching; it is like a rocking chair – it drains your energy and takes you nowhere! If either you or your colleagues are prone to clock watching, ensure you cut it down by 70% – 80%.
  3. Get organized and negotiate seriously in case an extension is necessary before embarking on the task. Unattainable and unreasonable deadlines at the workplace are serious situations where, more often than not, business exigencies force organizations to put out these deadlines. 
  4. Be realistic, and draw up a priority list. Having prioritized, set the stage to start working. Look for guidance. Your reference point for achieving the task at hand is the analysis chart you have worked out. Stick to it and remember not to slip into a “distress” mode but build in as much buffer as is possible. Monday blues are a normal occurrence at the workplace; avoid a Monday morning deadline as far as possible.
  5. Simultaneously, be aware of your body, mental faculties, and attitudes. Tidying your desk is an important prerequisite; positive mental and emotional attitudes are simply a must. This is important for you and if you have colleagues it is imperative that they too are an integral part of the system set. 
  6. Paradoxical, though it may seem, programmed breaks must be in-built. Coffee and lunch breaks are an important therapy not only for body and mind but also for mental and emotional reinvigoration. They provide you with steam to continue in a more focused fashion.  
  7. To be free of physical, emotional, and mental stress you need to get the required amount of sound sleep; talk slower, eat slower, and make it a point to be mentally cool and composed.
  8. A beneficial corollary of Continuous Learning is creativity which flows into what is known as elasticity of thinking. The elasticity of thinking broadens your mental horizons enabling you not to be locked into existing parameters; rather it leads you to examine various possibilities that may be available for any given situation.
  9. Your decision to “work on something” is motivated by how much value you assign to the task on hand and therein you are bringing in what psychologists call a subjective value. Ensure that you have an ingrained system of periodic and intermittent  “speed checking.”
  10. The motivating force-generation comes from You (body + mind + spirit) along with the component of Time; the motive force-generator needs to be treated with the utmost care and diligence at all times. Keeping cool and composed throughout is a force multiplier; a few simple non-strenuous indoor or outdoor exercises depending on your physical condition helps tremendously.

Conclusion

In the final analysis, work deadlines stress does not need to be viewed as a precursor to the theory of “flight.” It has been proved ever so often that work deadline stress when handled prudently works to be a stress buster.  There is a valuable relationship between stress and creativity,  referred to above, which is essentially non-toxic. Small doses of stress are likely to produce innovative ideas that motivate the brain to function creatively towards a better solution. This is, essentially, a positive outcome of creativity which builds up the elasticity of thinking.

Consider the following parameters from daily life:

  1. On a treadmill:               your work is high pressure but low in meaning.
  2. On autopilot:               your work is low pressure and also low in meaning.
  3. On an expedition: your work is low pressure but high in meaning.
  4. On a mission: your work is high pressure and high in meaning.

Essentially, be judicious:  there needs to be a favourable parity between input and output.  Not every “high” effort produces “high” output. 

Successful achievements of deadlines call for a “mission” approach.

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