Deadline Drama

by Beckie Stokes

So here we are, back from Thanksgiving break.  Your food coma may not have even broken yet, but you’re already dangerously close to staring finals in the face.  You’ve got just over a week until exams begin, and you may be wondering how you’re going to accomplish everything that needs to get done – especially when all you’re looking for is the light at the end of the semester.  It’s time to start breaking down how you’re going to meet all these deadlines.  What a good time to develop this skill!  You’ll use it in your daily life in your career as well – unlike all those algebra/history/Greek mythology classes in high school that you swore you’d never use in the real world.*  Here are some tips and tricks that have always helped me deal with my own deadlines.

  • List out everything that has to be done and categorize by priority.  I like to make an “active” to-do list and a “backlog” to-do list.  Limit the active list to 3 very important items.  Once an “active” item is complete, move the next most important task from “backlog” to “active.”
  • Give yourself several smaller deadlines.  Here’s where the lists come in handy.  Assign a deadline to each item on the list.  And be reasonable!  Sure, you’d like to have all 300 pages of assigned reading done by tomorrow, but that’s probably not realistic.  And then you’ll just feel more stressed out that you missed your deadline.  Figure out how much time each task reasonably takes.
  • Make sure you’re clear on the requirements of the assignment.  Nothing is worse than wrapping up a project and re-reading the syllabus only to find out that you have twice as much due than you’ve already done.
  • Avoid the roadblock of being overwhelmed.  I don’t know about you, but sometimes when I feel like a looming deadline is insurmountable, I shut down.  It’s really hard to get moving again after you’ve had the “it’ll never get done, why even try” freak-out.  So don’t let yourself get to that point.  Practice stress-relief exercises – yoga, snack break with friends, you get the idea.  Just don’t let your brief respites turn into procrastination (I’m looking at you, drawings of pterodactyls).

It’s such a good idea to develop effective project management skills now.  You’re always going to have deadlines, you’re always going to have to collaborate on assignments (sometimes with people you don’t like very much), and you’re always going to need to figure out how to balance all these things without going completely crazy.  It’s possible that your future boss will appreciate your dinosaur pictures, but just in case she doesn’t, learn now how to juggle deadlines like a professional.

*You totally use them in the real world.  Greek mythology included.