Dealing with deadline dread

Summer might be round the corner, but for students across the country this time of year can be overshadowed by looming deadlines: coursework; dissertations; exams; job applications; interviews. School and college life is largely defined by deadlines of one sort or another, but somehow they always have a tendency to creep up on you.

Deadlines can be stressful, but they can also keep you focused. Many professionals freely admit that without fixed deadlines they can be prone to procrastination; conversely the knowledge that there is only a certain amount of time available to complete a given task is often all that’s needed to concentrate the mind and increase productivity.

Although some people produce their best work under time pressure (journalists and writers habitually work to tight deadlines in order to get publications to print on time), countless others don’t, and the stress of an approaching deadline can strike fear into the heart of the most capable of students and graduates.

If this sounds like you, you are not alone. Here are some tips to help you cope with – and conquer – deadline stress.

  • Set yourself smaller, manageable deadlines before the big day: a chapter a week on a dissertation, for example. Working toward and achieving these goals will make the final deadline appear less daunting; plus it’s a great way of measuring your progress.
  • Devise yourself a work/revision timetable, and stick to it. If you are more productive in the morning, set yourself a few hours before lunch to work on the task at hand. You’re more likely to achieve your goals if you develop a manageable routine, and less likely to feel overwhelmed by your workload.
  • Get stuck in! Usually the thought of the work or preparation that lies ahead is more terrifying than the work itself once you’re immersed in it, so the sooner you start, the better you’ll feel.
  • If you are genuinely struggling to meet a deadline, don’t be afraid to ask for support if you need it. Talk to your tutor/mentor/careers adviser – they will do their best to help you.

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