Deadlines are a scary thing. They can really freak one out, which makes meeting them quite a dreadful experience. But deadlines can be our friends too, we just have to treat them as such.

Lately, it’s been increasingly hard for me to meet deadlines. It’s not that I’m unmotivated or that I’m lazy, but recently I’ve been facing more professional responsibilities and so it became more difficult to do things on time.

We all know how things go from there. You’re exhausted, you’ve done so much throughout the day and so you decide not to do this one little thing - you’re putting it off for THE NEXT DAY. Sadly, the next day is already planned out and you have new goals to accomplish. Tasks move from one day to the next until you’re overwhelmed with the pile of unfinished procrastinated documents and a bunch of missed deadlines.

Let’s face it - we’ve all been there. Some periods of our lives are more busy, some less. Often times we can’t really control what’s going on around us and what is required of us from different areas of our lives, so all we can really do is try to do our best and accept what we can’t do. But that doesn’t mean you should just give up on what you have to do! Here are a few tips on what you can do to ease the looming dread of deadlines.

DO organise yourself. It is important to keep some sort of schedule and attempt to follow it. Some of us work better under pressure, some less. Some need a flexible schedule, some need a lot of discipline to get things done. All of this depends on you, but one thing is certain: a visual aid is always good to keep things in check and get them out fo your head. Your mind is too precious to keep your entire schedule in it and you can save yourself some space in it if you write your important goals and appointments on a piece of paper.

DON’T take on more than you can chew. I’m often guilty of that, hence I understand the delusional struggle of unattainable ambitions, but it is a very important point. If you have too much on your plate you’re not really able to do anything properly and you soon find yourself burned out and demotivated. Make sure you only take on tasks and projects that you actually can do, but also keep in mind to get involved in stuff that makes you happy and fulfilled. There is only so much you can do, so it’s good that you fill up your time with activities that matter to you.

DO forgive yourself! Just like rules, deadlines are there to be broken. Maybe not, but you get my point; nobody’s perfect and nobody should expect of you to always meet all your deadlines. It’s okay if you can’t handle to manage your work sometimes and it is understandable that there will be a few times in your life when you won’t be able to make it on time.

That doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t care about meeting deadlines. It’s important to remember that often other people rely on your work and need for you to be done with your part in order for them to do their own job. Hence, DO communicate with your team in case you know you can’t manage to do something on time. We often feel guilty and embarrassed to admit we can’t do something but more and more often it is actually appreciated in a work setting that you’re candid and pre-emptive about your own shortcomings. As long as it doesn’t happen too often.

To avoid that, DON’T leave everything for the last day. As much as we love to procrastinate things to the last minute, it is one of the nastiest and most disrespectful things we can do to ourselves. Not only does the quality of our work suffer, resulting in a bittersweet shame that we could have done the given task better, but also the stress and anxiety generated by doing things last minute are just not worth it. As much as it sucks to do things straight away and all we want to do after work or school is to relax and not think about any of our tasks, in the long run it can become a really neurotic, adrenaline-filled habit.

So, DO get into the habit of completing your tasks straight away. This way, as annoying as it may be at first, you will get everything done and will be able to sit back and relax. Because let’s face it, when it is the other way around and we put things off for later, usually all our tasks weigh on our shoulders, hiding somewhere at the back of our minds and making themselves noticed.

But that’s not a bad thing. DO remember that anxiety is there to signal to you that something isn’t right, something doesn’t serve you. Let’s say you have three days to finish a project. You have most of it done but you still need to get some work done. You feel quite confident about it so you tell yourself you don’t have to do it straight away. You put it off for the next day and you decide to meet your friend for a drink. Everything is nice but you keep on mentioning you have this project to finish and somehow most of what you say during the night revolves around your work and that specific thing you have to do. The next day when you wake up you’re starting to stress about meeting the deadline. But now it became that thing that you have to do. So you don’t want to do it, your mind perceives it as something uncomfortable. That’s when anxiety kicks in. It’s there to tell you: Hey don’t be stupid and just do this so you don’t hear from me anymore! So DO respect your anxiety and DO listen to it. If you do it won’t bug you as much.

Last, but not least: DON’T freak out. The worst thing to do when you have to meet a deadline and you don’t have that much time left is to stress yourself out. At this point you’re not even stressing about the deadline itself, you’re just stressing that you’re stressing. And that’s only leading to you working even slower and less efficiently. So take a big breath and don’t let things get to you too much. Take a walk or a short break and get back to your task with a clear mind. You got this.