Eliminate Deadline Stress: Here's HowElance_Alex | Jun 18, 2010
What does taking on a lot of jobs mean? Just as many upcoming deadlines. Managing your workload and deadlines to avoid unnecessary stress is an important part of every elancer and freelancer's career. Elizabeth Grace Saunders, Elance member and expert time coach shares her tips on avoiding deadline stress.
Have you been exhibiting abnormal behavior like:
- Sorting through the avalanche of papers on your desk with gusto?
- Checking e-mail so often that you seem to have an inbox twitch?
- And snapping when someone asks you a harmless question?
If so, you’re most likely you’re suffering from “deadline-itis,” i.e. the distinct blend of mounting tension coupled with total avoidance that finally explodes into a frenzy of activity right before you need to deliver on a milestone. In short: procrastination.
Although you may actually meet your deadline, you’ll end the process so incredibly drained that you have little motivation to keep moving ahead at a consistent pace on your next projects. That means the stress and pressure will mount once again until it spills over into another flurry of activity and all nighters.
You may ask, “So what? Isn’t this the way it has to be?”
And I can say as a full-time freelancer for over four and a half years and a time coach who has developed an exclusive Schedule Makeover process that allows me and others to work 40 hours a week or less, have evenings and weekends free, and meet our deadlines. As a matter of fact, it doesn’t have to be this way.
Here are some of my best Schedule Makeover tips on eliminating deadline stress:
Focus on the Beginning, Not the End: So you worked hard submitting your proposal, negotiating fees and setting milestones. And congrats! You won the project. Your usual next step is to breathe a deep sigh of relief, make a note of when you need to complete the project and then to do nothing about it until you’re within days of a deadline with no room for error. To reduce stress, shift your focus from the end game to what you have the ability to do right now in the present.
Review Right Away: As soon as you receive an assignment, decide to review it in detail within the next 24-48 hours. This gives you the opportunity to dramatically decrease your apprehension about starting the project because you’re able to assess the scope of the work without having to do anything about it immediately. Also, you can follow up and ask your client any questions at the beginning of the process. This builds trust and minimizes the possibility that you end up filled with guilt when you realize that you need to call the client right before the deadline to clarify what needs to get done.
Work Backwards: During your review process, you will break your overall project into specific action steps tied to time frames. For example, if the project is designing a landing page, the steps could include:
- Ask the client about preferences (4 weeks before milestone)
- Research similar landing pages (3 weeks before milestone)
- Come up with “rough drafts” (2 weeks before milestone)
- Receive client feedback on drafts (7 days before milestone)
- Make final edits (3 days before milestone)
- Submit the landing page (on milestone)
Follow up and Follow Through: In an ideal world, everyone will respond back to you immediately and answer all of your questions. But often the business world is less than perfect. Take responsibility for following up on whatever you need to be able to get your work submitted on time. When you send someone a request for information or feedback, blind carbon copy (BCC) yourself on the e-mail so you can have the request on file. Then make a note in your calendar to follow up with them if you haven’t received the requested response by the designated deadline. When you follow up by e-mail or phone, you can simply say:
“Hello! I hope you’re having a wonderful day. I believe that we agreed you would send me __________ by yesterday, but I haven’t seen it in my workroom. Did you post the information? If so, could you repost it because it must have gotten lost in cyberspace? If not, when can I expect to see it?”
This allows you to follow up without seeming pushy and makes sure that other people missing deadlines doesn’t create deadline stress for you.
Give Yourself a “Fake Deadline”: Make a personal goal to have the project, and even each milestone, done at least a day before the actual deadline. You never know when unexpected things will come up or when projects will take longer than you anticipated. Giving yourself a “fake deadline” allows room for margin. When your personal deadline is a day before the actual client deadline, if you still have a few hours of work left to do after pulling an all nighter, you don’t have to stress.
Decide on Priorities: Producing high quality work is essential to the happiness of your clients and your long-term business success. But if you find yourself consistently missing deadlines or putting enormous pressure on yourself because you’re obsessed with details that aren’t essential to delivering on the client’s requirements, consider a different strategy. Try completing the most important elements of the project first. Then if you still have time before your deadline, go back and refine the little details that you would like to complete.
Deadlines don’t need to stress you out! By focusing on what you can control in the present, planning out your time and giving yourself room for the unexpected, you can achieve a peace-full, productive life.
About the Author:
Elizabeth Grace Saunders is a time coach who empowers people who feel frustrated and overwhelmed to create peaceful, productive lives through Schedule Makeovers. She has spoken to thousands and coached dozens of individuals from New York to Los Angeles to Minnesota. Elizabeth has also appeared in Inc magazine, The Chicago Tribune and on NBC.
Elance Blog - Tips to Avoid the Dreaded Writers Block
Elance Blog - Going Green in Your Workplace
Elance Blog - Are You Killing Your Productivity? Six Things To Watch Out For