18 March 2024

How to handle deadline pressure in the workplace without burning out

a man smiling, with his arms crossed. happy after using HR software to overcome workplace pressures.

Deadlines. Literally every employee has to deal with them, and everyone has their own methods for coping. How can you work under pressure and manage tight deadlines?

There are loads of different techniques you can use to manage work deadlines and what works for you might not work for someone else. However, there are some tried and true good practices that anyone can take advantage of. 

Setting realistic deadlines

While we’d all like to wish we can complete every task incredibly quickly, it’s important to be realistic. Even if something doesn’t take a long time on its own, it needs to fit around the rest of your workload. Taking the time to evaluate your capabilities (and the capacity of the team around you) under different circumstances will help you estimate project timelines accurately. 

People have a tendency to assume the task they’ve assigned is the most important and the most urgent. Learning how to parse this and evaluate what is truly urgent is an important skill. Learning to pushback to other stakeholders will avoid disappointment in the long term. All of this will help reduce deadline stress. 

Effective time management techniques

Once you’ve established what deadlines you’re working with, it’s time to manage your time. There are loads of different tools and methods for tracking and managing time, so it’s important to experiment and find methods that work for you. Making sure you create a schedule that allows for unexpected delays is also vital. 

The most crucial time management technique of all is avoiding procrastination and keeping your focus in place. Muting notifications and hiding your phone are a great way to get into a focused zone and staying there. 

Managing stress and anxiety

Mindfulness techniques, such as practicing meditation can be really helpful here. However, prevention is better than cure. It’s incredibly helpful to try to recognise the signs of stress and anxiety- especially related to deadlines. These can include: 

  • Increased heart rate
  • Muscle tension
  • Headaches 
  • Sleep problems and fatigue
  • Irritability

Self-care strategies (including increased exercise, better nutrition and sleep hygiene) are useful in the long term, but in the immediate term you might need to take a step back from your work in order to calm down, revaluate and move forward. 

Collaboration and delegation

Sometimes a deadline lands on your desk that you know you’ll never be able to hit. Sometimes you can see a lot of deadlines about to hit all at once, and know you’ll never be able to complete them all. In these situations, learning how to effectively delegate tasks and responsibilities is vital.  

This means you’ll need to put some strategies for effective communication and coordination. You can’t just dump your deadlines on someone else without any warning, that’s just moving the deadline stress around. Instead, fostering open communications and using collaboration tools is key, as that will help keep delegation efficient and fair. 

Improving productivity under pressure

Some people thrive under pressure, only able to produce great work when they have a strict deadline to contend with. However, for most people, hard pressure can absolutely destroy their productivity, as they spend more time worrying about work rather than doing it. This causes major issues, as the more pressure builds up the less efficient someone becomes, which leads to more pressure! 

Make use of rewards, taking time to recharge, refining already completed work and breaking down the task into more manageable chunks are all great ways take some of the pressure off and prevent a productivity spiral. 

Final thoughts

Worries and anxieties about deadline pressures can affect anyone. By getting control of the situation, you can figure how to work under pressure, avoid burnout and create great work. 

With effective workforce management tools, you can create a much more effective flow of work, ensuring no one gets hit with unmanageable tight deadlines. 

Emma Reid headshot

Emma Reid

Content writer at MHR

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