9 Productivity Hacks to Help You Meet Your Deadline

Deadlines kinda suck, don’t they? (There’s a reason they aren’t called “alivelines”.) They can bring a lot of stress to your work and cause you to doubt yourself, but the good news is—they don’t have to be scary.

9 Productivity Hacks

After blogging for a couple of years, I’ve grown accustomed to working with deadlines. Every week, I know I’ve got to write two articles; it’s just the way things are. And it’s not always easy. So today I want to share some productivity hacks I’ve learned to help you meet your next deadline.

Hack #1: Understand inspiration

Inspiration owes you nothing. I just want to say that up front, because it’s important to understand the nature of inspiration before you even think about getting to work. Last week, I talked about the secret of outstanding productivity, and that’s it.

You’ve got to accept the fact that inspiration isn’t some lost puppy that wanders up to you, begging to be adopted. It’s more like a wild unicorn tearing away in the opposite direction. You’ve got to chase it down.

Hack #2: Get organized

It’s hard to meet deadlines when you aren’t sure what you need to do, so get organized. Make a list of the things you need to accomplish and keep it in front of you. Clean your desk. Disorganization kills productivity and fosters procrastination.

Getting organized not only prepares you physically, but mentally as well. It allows you to declutter your mind, freeing it to focus on the tasks at hand.

Hack #3: Map out your goals

Having a plan can save you a lot of stress when you’re in the middle of pushing for a deadline. Whether it’s the outline for a novel or bullet points for a speech, you need a road map.

Set mile-markers for yourself along the way. When I work on a book, I like to do this in Google Calendar by setting word count goals each day. Your goals don’t have to big huge. In fact, small goals can be better, as they give you something to do right now instead of “sometime in the future”. But, regardless of your method, you need to set goals.

Hack #4: Set the mood

Where and when do you do your best work? Is there a certain atmosphere that makes your creativity flow? Find that place.

Play some music or open a window. Pack up your laptop and head to a bookstore. Light a candle or make some tea. Create the type of atmosphere that will enliven your curiosity and ignite your creativity.

Hack #5: Prioritize

On the road to any deadline, there will be things you simply cannot do. You will have to prioritize. If something doesn’t get scheduled, it won’t get done.

Look through your goals and determine which ones you can do later. Allow yourself to say “no” to the things that aren’t urgent. And be honest with yourself. If you try and accomplish too much at once, you will burn out, and your creativity will suffer.

Hack #6: Give yourself permission to be imperfect

As creatives, we are often hard on ourselves. It’s easy to demand perfection from yourself, especially when facing a deadline. But the truth is; it’s okay to be imperfect.

It is more important that something exists than that it’s flawless. You can always fix it later.

Hack #7: Take breaks

If you push yourself too hard, you will face burnout. And burnout will cut the lifeline to your creativity faster than you can say, “I don’t have time for that.”

It’s okay to take breaks. In fact, it’s important if you want to avoid burnout and have the energy to do your best work. They don’t have to be long. Even fifteen minutes is fine, but if you feel yourself starting to fade, stop and come back later. Schedule a few minutes to feed your soul some inspiration.

Hack #8: Understand your creative tendencies

When I get an idea, I’m usually super pumped about it. I can’t wait to get started! The beginning of a new project is the same way, but there comes a time, not too much later, when I know I’ll feel differently. When I reach the second or third chapter in a book, I’ll begin to second-guess myself. I’ll start to wonder if it’s really any good at all, or if I’m wasting my time.

It’s important to understand your creative tendencies when facing a deadline so you can prepare for them. What does your creative cycle look like?

Hack #9: Stay active

In the midst of a deadline, it’s easy to get holed up in your lair and never come out, but staying active is one of the things that will help keep your mind sharp.

Consider going for a run in the morning before getting to work, or even taking a walk during one of your breaks. Staying active will create some margin in your work and help you avoid overwhelm.

productivity hack graphic

Download the free printout to keep by your desk!

What are some of your favorite productivity hacks? Do you use any of these? If so, how have they helped you be more productive?

If you enjoyed this post, please leave a comment and share it with a friend, or reply on Facebook or Twitter. I’d love to hear about your best productivity hacks!

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11 thoughts on “9 Productivity Hacks to Help You Meet Your Deadline

  1. I love deadlines! Especially ones that pop up with only a little sliver of space to accomplish the task in. Self-imposed deadlines tend to be a struggle, though, because I don’t feel the same sense of urgency. Need to work on that!

    • I agree, some deadlines can be motivating. But the self-imposed ones are especially difficult to make. Motivating yourself can be one of the hardest things when it comes to getting work done on time. I definitely speak from experience, there.

  2. On days I really need to get stuff done, I use a timer. 20 minutes for working and then a 10-minute break. Since NaNoWriMo started yesterday, I’ve been doing writing, break, school, break then starting over until I finish what I have to do. This usually works well for me, but I’ve found that 20 minutes with a timer for writing, I can maybe get around 300-400 words written. Then I went to the website Write or Die and in the same amount of time I can write 500. But if I do things in shorter bursts it helps me focus more so my mind doesn’t wander too much.

  3. Making big goals and then gradually honing it down to smaller goals helps me a lot. I like doing yearly, monthly, weekly, and daily goals. That way I’m not overwhelmed, but I still keep track of everything. Thanks for the tips!