How to Cope with Tight Deadlines

We’ve all been in this situation. You show up to work and your boss hands you 3 painstakingly time-consuming projects that all have to be somehow finished by tomorrow. The month of May has been all about the stress of Job Pressure on The Stress Less Show, and there is nothing quite as stressful as facing a tight deadline at work. It can feel impossible to know how to deal with the stress of tight deadlines in a healthy way, and no unfortunately, snacking nervously does not count as dealing. That is why I brought Rachel Sheerin, international keynote speaker and Certified Behavioral Analyst, on this week’s episode to talk about her own story dealing with tight deadlines.

Coming from a high performing family, Rachel started out working hard to climb higher and achieve more and more as quickly as she could. “I was really at the top of my career, winning awards, being active in community associations, growing a team, making great money and I hated it and I was so frantic.”

As she began to feel the pressure of working so hard to reach goal after goal, she realized something that completely changed her perspective on her career. She realized she was in a race with herself because she had put tight deadlines on her life and the goals she set.

“The biggest tight deadline that a lot of us feel is the deadline of the American dream and the deadline to make it. The deadline to keep racing ourselves to go to school, get good grades, graduate, get a job, get a promotion...”

Rachel’s experience led her on her path to a brand new career helping people and companies all around the world sell more effectively and feel happy at work. This career has taken her all around the country to share her insights with others and this week, Rachel came onto the Stress Less Show to share her tips for coping with tight deadlines in life.

Tip #1: Acknowledge who is pressuring you

In line with her own story, Rachel’s first tip is to start by stepping back and really discovering where all of those tight deadlines you face are coming from. We often feel that people in our lives - bosses, partners, parents - are pushing us to achieve x, y, and z as soon as possible. However, Rachel finds that there’s sometimes more to the story.

“I think it's easy to say that other people pressure us and that's totally possible but a lot of times, especially for high performers, it's us. It's us pressuring ourselves on some proverbial deadline that has been invented, but there is no right way [to live].”

It is important to separate the internal deadlines from external ones. We may not always be able to control the deadlines others have for us, but the deadlines we set for ourselves come from within. Setting personal deadlines can be motivating, but it is key to really be honest with ourselves about how we came about creating these deadlines.

Tip #2: Ask better questions that clarify and empower

Once you know where your deadlines are coming from, the next step according to Rachel is to start asking clarifying questions to yourself and others about these tight deadlines. Rachel suggests this because it is necessary to have a mutual understanding of why this deadline has been set. While someone may have reasons for why they set a tight deadline for you, you may not always be able to see those reasons and that person may not be able to see your reasons for why that deadline is causing you stress.

“People have no clue the amount of work, the amount of skill and time that it takes you to do something. So those clarifying questions really kind of illuminate and also help give some power and flexibility to you know do we really need this type of a deadline.”

Tip #3: Lead into your questions with a true and positive statement

Asking questions is a great way to reach common ground on your deadlines, but no one said it was easy! Rachel notes that we can often feel a lot of fear around questioning a deadline we are given.

“We're taught somewhere along the way to stop asking a lot of questions and we might be uncomfortable because sometimes questions can come up and come off like we are not on board or that we're being difficult.”

We can sometimes feel the pressure to be a “team player” and avoid questioning our coworkers and managers, but that fear ends up only creating more stress for us as we try to take on too much at once. Rachel’s tip to help lessen this fear is to approach the conversation and questions from a positive place from the very beginning.

“If we're working together on a project you want me [to do it] with a tight deadline and I say, ‘Carlee, I'm 100 percent on board with this mission and I want to do the very best. So I've got a few questions. Is that OK?’ That really sets a way different tone.”

By stating upfront your agreement with the project overall, you show the people you work with that you are taking the steps you need to help them achieve their goals in a way that will lead to the best result. This way, the conversation no longer feels like you are complaining about a deadline in your mind. Instead, you are using your knowledge and experience to work with your bosses and coworkers more effectively while also valuing yourself and your time. It’s a win-win for everyone!

You can learn more about Rachel Sheerin by visiting her website here. This episode of The Stress Less Show was sponsored by The Stress Less Space, an intentional space for women to relax and recharge away from the chaos of everyday life. Learn more about The Stress Less Space by clicking this link!