How to Get Motivated with Big Deadlines Coming Up

Self belief is a life skill you can boost with our free Young Professional training. And feeling motivated is a big part of believing in yourself! Here’s how to stay motivated when you’ve got deadlines looming…

Writer Douglas Adams famously wrote, “I love deadlines. I love the whooshing noise they make as they go by”.

Funny though this is, missing deadlines can actually have serious consequences at work – for you, your team, your company and possibly even clients. So it’s really important to stick to deadlines, and ideally come in a little bit ahead of schedule (that way you have some leeway if something unexpected goes wrong!) Read on to learn how to keep yourself motivated at deadline time.

Plan ahead

Big deadlines won’t (usually) be sprung on you last minute. Planning ahead means that you know what you’ve got coming up. That means you’ve got an idea of how you’re going to handle it.

If you’re working in a team, bring everyone in at the planning stage to come up with something that works for everyone.

Use planning tools like calendar blocking and Gantt charts to lay out all the tasks and easily visualise who is working on what.

Work together and get buy-in from everyone

“Teamwork makes the dream work,” as they say. Big projects and deadlines are a time to pull together with your team and support each other. Give everyone space to share their challenges, voice their opinions, and offer solutions and ideas. You’ll only work well together if everyone feels invested and like a full and valued part of the team.

Try to stay positive

If you’re feeling stressed out, worried and anxious, you’re not going to do your best work and will be more likely to procrastinate. Try to keep your thinking positive and, if you find yourself drifting into negative thought patterns, do something to break it (go for a walk away from your desk, talk to a colleague, ask for help, take a short break.) Practice positive thinking – tell yourself that you are capable and CAN do this, think of challenges as opportunities, and remind yourself why the work you’re doing matters.

Take anything non-essential off your plate

When a big deadline is coming up, you need to prioritise. This means that anything non-essential can wait. Ask yourself if a task really has to be done now and if it doesn’t, put it off until you’ve met your big deadline. If you’re not sure what the best things are to sideline for now, talk to your boss.

Visualise success

Imagine yourself completing the project and how amazing it’s going to feel when you’re done. Visualise the ideal outcome. Is it a brilliant event, a perfectly written report, a huge payment from a happy client, or a fantastic new website? Whatever it is, keeping sight of what you’re aiming for helps to keep you focused, on task and motivated.

Break the work up into manageable chunks

Staring at a huge task is daunting. So break it up into smaller, manageable pieces! For example, say that you’re organising an event. Your smaller sub-tasks might include “order catering,” “write brochure copy,” “book guest speaker,” and “send out invitations.” This not only makes your overall task and big deadline less overwhelming, but also helps keep you motivated. Ticking things off a to-do list is so satisfying – this allows you to do that multiple times! Review your progress every day or week in the lead-up to your deadline, and you’ll most likely see that you’re doing better than you expected.

Learn how you work best, and lean into that

Are you an early bird? If so, do difficult tasks in the morning and focus on lighter, easier things after lunch. For those who come alive in the afternoon, flip this around. Do you work best in silence? Use noise-cancelling headphones, take yourself off to a quiet office, or ask if you can work from home sometimes. Does it help to have a cup of coffee or some snacks to hand? Do that. Whatever quirks, environmental factors or habits help you to work best, now is the time to use them to your advantage.

Plan something nice to look forward to

Can you take a day or two (or longer) off after your big deadline, or just plan something really nice to do at the weekend? Would going out for a drink with the team to celebrate hitting your goal be fun for you? Having something nice to look forward to is always motivating, so plan something in advance! It could even just be a small treat, like taking yourself to your favourite cafe for lunch once all the work is done.

Be mindful of procrastination and putting things off until tomorrow (or never)

We all procrastinate sometimes, but it’s important to keep control of it. Taking a few minutes’ break to browse social media is probably fine, but you need to be disciplined and not get sucked in to endless scrolling. Chatting with your desk-mate for five minutes is good team bonding, chatting for half an hour is probably an excessive distraction. And be wary of the tendency to suddenly urgently need to rearrange your desk or make tea for the entire office when there’s a big task you really should be doing instead!

Ask for help – and show gratitude

If you’re overwhelmed, not sure how to do something, or just need a second opinion – ask for help! Your boss, colleagues and wider team will most likely be glad you asked and happy to help. Don’t forget to return the favour by offering help when you can, and remember to say thank you when someone lends a hand.

How do you keep yourself motivated when you’ve got a big deadline looming?

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