6 Elements of Stressful Living
and how to Live and Work Stress Free:
Day 6: Deadlines
If you know how long it takes you to do something, you have a delivery date.
If you don’t know, lie to yourself or make yourself the prisoner of time, you have deadlines.
The name says it all: by the time you finish, you are dead.
Deadlines are a perception or interpretation of delivery dates that makes them artificial, aggressive, rigid and often downright insane.
Few industries truly need this. Newspapers were one of the industries were deadlines were part of the trade, but even they are disappearing today.
However, our entire culture has an addiction to deadlines and often creates unnecessary stress pushing towards these constructs.
As we talked in Day 2 about Rushing, if you create good systems and manage your time well, you can honor delivery dates without creating stress pushing yourself to meet deadlines.
But if you are an entrepreneur, coach, healer, artist, author or expert you may be doing something similar to what I found myself doing. This practice was absolutely devastating to me.
Here’s how it looked:
- I placed artificial due dates with small windows of delivery (three-day launch, limited time sales, etc) to my goals and projects.
- These windows of delivery were not only brief; but if they did not work, I would lose months of work.
- I then forced myself to meet these artificial deadlines by doing all the things I was supposed to do according to the formulas for launching, sales, etc (See Day 3: Dutifying). I pushed myself (See Day 1: Pushing) to do all this even though I didn’t have the support I need to use these formulas and even though it felt wrong for me or it was not really working for me at the moment.
- I spent months rushing and creating enormous stress and I would not be able to make these deadlines work; so now all the work I did was lost.
I do not have deadlines. Don’t get me wrong. I have target dates, timelines and delivery dates. But I no longer see them as deadlines. I call them lifelines. After all, time is life and the time it takes me to create something is a line to my life, not to my death.
To eliminate deadlines or turn them into lifelines, follow these steps:
- Study your creative and production process and come up with an effective system that outlines priorities, tasks, timeline for each task, check-points, automation of everything that can be automated, and includes time for the three Inevitables. (Read about them here.)
- Place all your recurrent tasks in your calendar, so that you know what your real time is for incoming projects. I use Google Free Calendar so that I can see it online. It’s my home page in the internet, so it’s the first thing I see when I get online. (If you have gmail, you get to use the calendar for free.)
- Place each new campaign or contract in that calendar, with due time and the Inevitables included. Place each task due date in a slot. You can use an online system for task management. I use Evernote, which I can sync with my desktop.
- Examine your strategy or methodology. Are you trying to follow someone else’s system even though it does not work for your uniqueness or personality? Make sure that they way you are doing things works for YOU. If you are bad at multi-tasking, avoid it. If you get bored easily, work with briefer time brackets for each task. If you like to concentrate deeply and hate being distracted, assign longer periods of uninterrupted time for each task. Avoid dutifying your work or life, and create work methods that go along the grain of your being and your creative style.
- Now you can look at the delivery dates you set out. Are they realistic in time? Do they include the Inevitables? Do they work for you? If they are not realistic, do not accept the setpoint. This is a point worth sticking to. Do not let a boss or client bully you into saying yes to a delivery date that is unrealistic. You will be blamed when you cannot make it; meanwhile you will be pushing and rushing and judging and doing every single thing mentioned in this series. You will be making your life hell!
- Eliminate every possible delivery date that is artificial. There are things that you want to get done within certain time; but you don’t need to place an artificial delivery date to get it done! An example: I want to publish the novel I already wrote and finish six stories that I have at different stages of creation; all within the next three months.But I don’t have to create artificial delivery dates to then be rushing and pushing towards them. Instead, how about placing the different tasks in the calendar and setting priority time to do the job? My version of this is to set priority times in the week just to write. I got half a day Monday and half a day Thursday for writing. I’m also planning to do a one-week writing intensive once a month. That should take care of all the writing!
When a project or part of a project needs to be accomplished within a time bracket, placing tasks in your calendar and sticking to it and creating time-intensives will get the job done as quickly as possible. You will be advancing every week towards the goal. But you won’t set yourself up for constant stress by pressuring yourself to meet an artificial deadline.
I hope that this six elements of stressful living and the remedies I provided are helping to you. I’m working on eliminating these elements from my life this year. Leave me a comment and let’s stay in touch as we create a stress free life and work!
This is the end of the series entitled:
6 Elements of Stressful Living and how to Live and Work Stress Free
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