While there is a big difference between the two, they are often used interchangeably.
We all have our own responses to deadlines. Even within our office, the answers varied considerably, ranging from ‘oh, I love deadlines, it’s when I get my best work done’ to ‘I hate them! I can’t think under that sort of pressure.’
There are clearly two sides to the deadline story as some see them as a very good thing, while others see them as a stressful situation.
So how do you feel about working under a tight schedule?
Personally, I quite like deadlines. Unless of course, they are unrealistic and unattainable, then I find them frustrating and stressful. I like to be able to do my best work, and that’s just not possible if there isn’t enough time.
It sounds a little contradictory, but I like to give myself plenty of time to meet the deadlines. One way I do this is to set a deadline well before the work is actually due. This article, for example, will not be published for a month or two. But my calendar deadline tells me that it’s due today. So here I am at the keyboard the night before.
What makes the difference to my stress levels is that I don’t feel under any real pressure. I have made a commitment to my staff that they will receive the article tomorrow, and they will. But, should there be an unforeseen distraction that needs attention, my article will still be published on time.
Setting clear deadlines for yourself and your team gives you ownership of your goals and commitments. It also means that you must rely on self-motivation to be productive, and that’s a good thing.
I work to a three-month writing schedule. I have articles written and checked months before they are due to be submitted. These manufactured deadlines give me great freedom. They don’t always work, and I’m certainly not always on schedule. However, should I decide to take a break or to focus completely on another project, I know that I have time on my side when it comes to writing.
It is the same for many other tasks in business. Most of them are not a surprise, we know that they’re going to come up. So why not shift the deadline and remove the pressure and angst of having others waiting for the results of your work?
Of course, we can’t always control the deadline and there will be times that something comes up and needs to take full priority. These issues are usually the result of circumstances that are beyond your control. Those are the times that we do in fact work under pressure, and most of us don’t enjoy it. The upcoming deadline is not of our creation but for whatever reason, we must meet it.
Still, managing those situations and working under pressure will be made easier when you have set earlier deadlines for other tasks. Being ahead of the game will give you a grace period where you can postpone working on them because you have completed enough to maintain momentum and to meet your obligations.
Deadlines are not a bad thing, and for the most part, we can control the amount of pressure by shifting those deadlines. Give it a try, it will make your life so much easier.