How do you handle deadlines?

Handling the stress of getting it done.

Many of us face deadlines in our everyday jobs and lives. I myself have many (such as finishing this article on time). So, how do you handle dreaded deadlines? Does it reflect your personality? Recently, I had a discussion with some of my Michigan State University Extension colleagues about how we handle dreaded deadlines. Here are a few ‘styles’ we came up with.

Last minute Lucy: Do you put things off to the very last minute, and then rush through? Often you just manage to get it done in time? I do this, probably more than I want to admit. This approach leaves me with a mix of emotions; proud that it’s done on time, a little guilty because I waited so long, and a little unsure of whether or not I did my best work.

The great pretender: If you don’t think about the deadline (and don’t meet it), maybe you will get lucky and no one will notice. People who handle deadlines like this may end up feeling guilty and continually worry and wait for negative consequences. I don’t suggest this approach – I personally would rather deal with the stress of getting it done on time, rather than the stress of worrying about what is going to happen if I don’t meet the deadline, or complete the task at all.

Pollyanna planner: Do you have everything planned out at least a year in advance? People who use this approach know what they need to do, when it is due, block out time on their schedules to do it, and unbelievable as it may seem, some even get things done ahead of time. This approach may work for some, and more power to them! I want to be a Pollyanna planner, I really do! I want to feel prepared, proud and relaxed. Unfortunately, I am easily distracted. Wait, was that a squirrel?

Pressure cooker: This style is different than the “last minute Lucy,” in that you thrive on deadlines. You do your best work under pressure; you don’t stress, you have the job all planned out in your head, and all you need is a few spare minutes. Then, snap! The job is done – and done well. I might like to be this person. I’m not that secure and I am pretty good at reveling in guilt.

Percolator: You like to sit and let ideas bubble for a while. You give yourself enough time to get it done, check it out, change it if needed and still meet your deadline in a timely fashion with pride and confidence. Once again, I would love to be this person. I would love to say I am a big thinker, dreaming up fantastic plans and being able to put them into action. How inspiring. Wait, was that a squirrel?

So which style are you the most like? If you are like me, you probably have been all of the above at some point or another. I know I have tried them all in work and in my personal life. The important thing is that we are human, which means we are not perfect. We are complex, trying to get through life and get things done. Sometimes, the best we can do is the best we can do. It helps me to learn to laugh at myself and my own humanness, and learn to appreciate it in others.

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