18 Ways Smart People Turn Around Tasks With Tight Deadlines

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Lorelei Yang
Lorelei Yang718
Wonky consultant with a passion for words
When you're on a tight deadline, time is your enemy. The relentless countdown to when your work is due can be both crazy-making and anxiety-inducing. However, it's important not to let the pressure get to you. Focusing on your work, utilizing some helpful tips for handling fast-paced environments and having a good plan will help you crush your deadlines.
As long as you meet them, tight deadlines can be incredibly helpful for your overall productivity. If you're a bit of a procrastinator (guilty), having set deadlines for your work can be galvanizing and motivating. Having tight turnaround times for work can help you get more work out in the same amount of time.

18 tips for meeting tight deadlines.

1. Don't allow yourself to dwell on the volume of work you have to do.

Overthinking your workload is a direct path to not getting it done. It's also a waste of valuable time that could be spent working.

2. Have a plan.

When you're on tight deadlines, having a good plan for your days is of the utmost importance. Having a list of the things you have to get done and sticking to the plan will maximize your productivity and keep you on task.

3. Work smarter, not harder.

Whenever possible, build efficiencies into your workflow. Have a format you use for a lot of your work? Create a template with as much pre-filled content and formatting as possible. Similarly, if you have resources you use on a regular basis, keeping them on hand for easy reference will minimize time spent searching for them.

4. Work when you're well-rested and rest when you're tired.

Working when you're exhausted is less effective and counterproductive. Rather than forcing yourself to work through sleepiness or mental fatigue, focus on working hard and smart when you're well-rested and make sure to get the rest you need to operate at peak efficiency.

5. Batch tasks.

When you "batch" tasks to do similar types of work all at once, you'll find that you work at a faster pace. This practice allows you to minimize the amount of time your brain spends switching between different types of tasks. Batch tasks by function (e.g., email, calls, meetings, etc.) and location (e.g., computer, home or in transit).

6. Tackle your hardest tasks first.

Start your day with the hardest items on your to-do list. This ensures that these tough tasks get done and also seizes the early hours of the day — when you're more alert and focused — to ensure you have the brainpower to do a good job.

7. Stick to a consistent schedule seven days a week.

Waking up at the same time every day — including on weekends — helps your body establish a consistent routine. It also gets your body used to being productive at the same time every day.

8. Don't get bogged down in tiny details.

When you're on tight deadlines, good enough is often perfectly acceptable. Getting lost in the details of each item you're on the hook for is a surefire way to lose valuable time that you can't get back.

9. Don't multitask.

Multitasking is a black hole for productivity. Because our brains aren't designed to focus on two tasks at the same time, multitasking leads to lower quality work with more mistakes. It also tends to cause you to work more slowly, so each item you're working on will take longer when you're multitasking.

10. Minimize distractions.

Related to the above, minimize distractions when you're on tight deadlines. Sign out of email (or turn email notifications off), put your phone on silent and stay off social media. Eliminating these distractions will help you create the best possible environment to focus and get things done.

12. Plan work out with Parkinson's Law in mind. 

Parkinson's Law is usually expressed as "work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion." Thus, if something has to be done in a year, it'll get done in a year; likewise, if it needs to be done in a week, it'll get done in a week. When you're on tight deadlines, Parkinson's Law has already been applied for you — all you have to do is meet the tight deadlines that have been set for you.

13. Stay up late if needed.

While it's important to be well-rested, it will sometimes be necessary to pull a late night or two to meet especially tight deadlines. When this is the case, you'll simply have to grit your teeth and get through it.

14. Be sure about what's being asked of you and deliver on it.

Having to redo work because you misunderstood the brief is the worst. When you're on a number of tight deadlines, it's also a major strain to have to redo work because you simply don't have the time to do so. Therefore, being sure you understand what's being asked of you and delivering that on your first attempt is very important when you're on tight deadlines.

15. Get started.

Procrastinating on your work is an absolute no-no when you're on tight deadlines. Getting going on your work is the best way (and only) way to get it done in time.

16. Ask for help if you need it.

Pulling a teammate or coworker in to help you meet tight deadlines is acceptable — just be sure you clearly explain why you need their help, with what you'd like their help and by when you need the final product. Down the line, you'll also want to be sure to repay the favor.

17. Consider a change of scenery.

Desk-restlessness is a real thing. Finding a new temporary workspace to work might help boost your focus and, therefore, your productivity, helping you hit your tight deadlines.

18. Use dead time to work on small tasks.

The time you spend in line at the grocery store, on the train en route to the office or waiting for a friend at a restaurant is often wasted scrolling through social media. Instead of scrolling through Instagram the next time you have a few minutes to kill, use that time to work on small tasks or plan projects out.
Maximizing efficiency and working smarter can enable anyone to produce high-quality work on tight deadlines. With these tips, you're well on your way to hitting all your deadlines and impressing everyone with whom you work.

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Lorelei Yang is a New York-based consultant and freelance writer/researcher. Find her on Twitter and LinkedIn.