If there is one sure way to miss a deadline, it’s to completely forget about it. If you have a complex schedule with meetings, deadlines, and competing priorities, it’s vital that you enlist certain techniques to keep you on top of it all. Having a full time job and this lovely blog, I often have short and long-term deadlines at work in addition to my own self-imposed deadlines at home. I always feel like I’m wearing different hats and performing a juggling act. Throughout pharmacy school, I went through a lot of trial and error in managing my workload and time. Below are some methods I use to keep it all together (most of the time).
Use a Deadline Cushion
To plan for unexpected events that can come up both professionally and personally, give yourself a deadline cushion. For example, if you’re deadline is two months away, plan to have the project done five days early. Setting this soft deadline will allow you a grace period in case something comes up and will prevent you from getting stressed out. If something does come up, you will look good for planning ahead and meeting your deadline, instead of using these unforeseen events as excuses.
Create a To-Do List
I love writing to-do lists and I think it’s the main tool that keeps me from getting completely overwhelmed. I have three separate columns in my planner, one for home, one for work, and one for my blog. This includes appointments, blog posts, gym dates, brunch dates, birthdays, family events, people I need to call, dinner menu planning, and anything else that comes to mind. My theory is that if I don’t write it down, it won’t get done. My lists tend to run weekly so it’s ok if I don’t get something done on a particular day because I have the whole week to prioritize. If it’s a task that has a high priority, I’ll write it in marker on a sticky note and place it right in the middle of my calendar to keep myself from forgetting. You can also incorporate different forms of technology to help manage your running to do list.
Manage People’s Expectations
Manage people’s expectations. If you receive a deadline that you don’t believe is realistic based on your workload or other factors, communicate this to your manager. Do not take on a month-long task with a one-week deadline unless you are positive you can handle it. Most people would rather you communicate and set realistic expectations than agree to a deadline and be unable to meet it. Also, if you’re a manager, don’t be afraid to delegate tasks to your team. Great employees are always looking for new opportunities and challenges. In the end, it’s a win-win situation.
Value your Time
I recently got into the habit of checking my email and social media channels about thirty times a day. I justified it by telling myself it’s just a few minutes to unwind, but we all know it’s never just a few minutes. Once I recognized this was happening, I started to turn my email and phone off for a few hours at a time so that I could concentrate on my work. I even turned off Pandora because I found myself skipping songs too often and distracting myself from the task at hand. I want to be diligent about my time and schedule because there are only so many hours in the day and I’d rather spend my free time with my family and friends, instead of catching up on work because I wasted hours stalking my Facebook friends.
Lean on Your Spouse
Thankfully, I have a husband who splits the home tasks with me. When we first got married, I thought I could do everything-laundry, cooking, cleaning, working full time, buying groceries, and managing our social calendar. Then we both realized that we’re busy people and we should work on things as a team. We share household duties and are flexible about each other’s schedules so if one person is working late or has an intense workload, the other person picks up the slack. It works out quite well because he hates cleaning the bathroom (I don’t mind) and I never want to unload the dishwasher (he doesn’t mind).
I try to be a blogger who schedules her posts for the week way in advance but unfortunately that just doesn’t always happen. My mind is always running with ideas for the monthly editorial calendar but often times, things will come up last minute and I’ll jot down ideas and notes for when I can actually sit down and write the article later. Writing posts, designing my webpage, and planning photos is a full time job in itself. Using the techniques above and having a fantastic support system helps me juggle a little bit better and be a bit more stylish in how I wear my different hats.
Do you have a support system you use to balance everything? What methods do you use to meet your deadlines, both personally and professionally?