How to manage multiple deadlines

It can be quite a struggle managing a busy workload. The nature of self employment can sometimes mean we find ourselves flitting between phases where work is very quiet to suddenly being inundated with projects, clients and deadlines.

managing deadlines_ laptop calendar

Being busy is great of course, but it’s easy to get tunnel vision when we’re faced with deadlines and targets to hit. Here are some practical tips for managing multiple deadlines without exhausting yourself in the process:

Diarise your deadlines

Whether you write them on a whiteboard or input them into an app, make sure that you are literally able to see your workload. This will help you plan your schedule in order to make the tasks in hand more manageable.

Prioritise

This isn’t just about the chronological order of your deadlines but also by the amount of work involved for each one. Organise your time by differentiating between what is urgent and what is important, and identify the tasks which will take up the most time, energy and resources.

Set a personal deadline

Whether it’s a week or even a few days earlier than the official due date, holding yourself accountable to a personal deadline can give you plenty of time to step back, review the work with fresh eyes and make any necessary corrections.

Break it down

When you’re faced with a calendar covered in deadlines it can easily feel overwhelming, so try breaking big projects into bitesize tasks. This way you’ll feel more motivated to do the work and you’ll still be on track to meeting your deadline.

Minimise Distractions

Your immediate goal might be to hit your deadlines but this doesn’t mean you can press pause on the rest of your business. You might still have meetings, you will definitely have emails, and so it’s important to put stress-free, guilt-free practices in place to keep your enterprise running smoothly.

This could mean simply revising your office hours on your email signature. This way, anyone who gets in touch is automatically provided with clear information about your availability and minimises the risk of losing any potential leads or clients.

You could even provide one or two lines about the project you’re working on, which would be more interesting and make people more curious about your work than if you leave a vague signature saying you are away working.

Stick to your working hours

It might be tempting to work all of the hours in the day in order to meet your targets but don’t. Sacrificing downtime won’t make you an efficient worker. Instead it will make you tired, grouchy and much less productive than if you had taken a break in the first place. Step away from your workspace and give your subconscious a chance to come up with ideas and solutions.

Stay healthy

Energy drinks and sugary foods aren’t proper fuel! Ensure that you still eat and drink properly and take a break from the laptop every now and again. Feeling physically well will help give you the focus and energy you need to do your work to the best of your ability.

Be honest

When you’re self employed you can sometimes feel the pressure to say yes to every opportunity that comes your way. However, if you know you can’t meet a deadline then say so.

Don’t push through just because you’re afraid of losing work. If the nature of your work is client-facing then try offering an alternative deadline. This way you’re not turning down work outright and it gives clients a chance to accommodate you.

 

It might take some experimenting to find out what practices work best for you when it comes to managing multiple deadlines - there are bound to be a few hits and misses! But the most important thing is that you look after yourself in the process. Having a strong workload is great, but you’ll find that the more focused, positive and motivated you are, the easier it will be to hit your targets and meet your deadlines.

Meet the author

Naomi Joseph

Naomi is a theatre-maker and writer. She writes honestly about the realities of freelance life and working in the arts. She is always open to collaborations and commissions. Connect with Naomi via Twitter or LinkedIn.