When Deadlines Attack: Time Management Tips
It’s one of those dreams: You’re back in high school, and you’re late for an exam, and you can’t find your classroom. Or you have a paper due, but you didn’t do it. Stress from unmet due dates and too much work can seep into our dreams and lead to anxiety-fueled nightmares. Good news: Time management can be learned!
It’s easy to get overwhelmed by the responsibilities of juggling work, family, and the demands of school — and forget about deadlines. The busier we are, the more chances there are to forget about homework or an important appointment. But never fear: Our three-step process will have you back on track and organized in no time. In fact, you might not even need to stress about some problems at all!
It’s important … but is it urgent for YOU?
Many of the issues we feel are urgent and prevent us from getting things done are actually not our problem. You’ve probably heard this phrase before: “A lack of planning on your part doesn’t constitute an emergency on mine.” It’s hard to stay calm when someone you love or the people around you are frantic, but you can be sympathetic without getting involved in the drama yourself. Sure, a situation might be urgent or important, but it might not be your problem to solve. As much as most of us like giving advice, we have to admit it rarely gets taken. Ask yourself these questions:
- Will things get better if I get involved?
- Is this situation directly related to me or my fault?
- Is my advice or involvement welcome?
Being emotionally supportive may be a priority, but getting needlessly upset might not be your job. Identify these issues in your life, and feel free to strike them off your priority list.
Related resource: The Balancing Point: Splitting Work and Home Lives in a Healthy Manner
But the deadline is NOW!
Of course we do have real deadlines and priorities, and sometimes they really are urgent. That’s OK. We just need to dissect the overwhelming deadline into bite-sized, manageable parts.
Step 1: Figure out the minimum viable product
Minimum viable product is an agile software development term that refers to a result that takes a minimum amount of effort with maximum impact. For example, a dental lab technician might be assigned to reproduce a set of teeth. An ambitious student might want to create both upper and lower sets of teeth, while the teacher might be satisfied with just a single set. Identify the minimum project you need to do, while still meeting the standard of quality you want.
Step 2: Time management means just break it down
List the parts of the project, and be specific. What tools do you need? What materials? For our dental lab technician from step 1, the list might look something like this:
- Buy porcelains and wax.
- Check with dentist to get molds.
- Fill and build the cases for the crown.
- Fire it in the furnace.
- Contour and grind the crown.
- Polish and stain the crown.
Step 3: One thing at a time
You probably can’t get this project done immediately, and worrying won’t help. Start with the first item on your list — buy porcelains and wax — and focus on accomplishing that. You already have your list, so don’t worry about the next step. One thing at a time. You can use this same method for multiple or complicated projects, too.
Related resource: A Day in the Life of a Dental Laboratory Technician
Get organized, so it doesn’t happen again
To minimize that dreaded sense of urgency, organized people build habits to ensure they know what their deadlines are in advance. A few of our favorite suggestions:
Put everything on a digital calendar. Everything. If it’s on a calendar, it has a deadline. And if it has a deadline, it’s much more likely that it will get done. Google calendar is free and accessible from your smartphone or computer. There are a host of similar web-based to-do apps as well.
Avoid distractions. If studying at home makes you want to clean the house, go to a coffee shop. Turn off the internet, and put your phone away for a set period of time (and stick to it). Tell family and friends that you’re busy and request they not bother you. Listen to classical music. What helps you focus? You know yourself best!
Ask for help. Going to school is hard. There are so many deadlines and due dates that students can quickly get overwhelmed. At Ameritech, our instructors are committed to helping our students succeed, so if you’re feeling overwhelmed, start by asking for help.
Related resource: 10 Tips for Creating Your Ideal Study Space
To learn more about our dental laboratory technician program, nursing, or any of our holistic healthcare programs, visit our website.