When work deadlines approach and you’re finding it hard to get things done, you might be tempted to learn a new productivity hack or two. Before you do that, read this first. Here are some tips to help you get a better handle on your time management when you need to work more effectively.

1. Get mathematical

Whenever I have too much on my plate and I impose a deadline on myself by jotting it down on my calendar or while using a tool like Asana, I cringe a little inside. I sometimes plan tasks that I think are manageable for the coming week, but then they aren’t. If I’m working on a big project and something gets delayed, it can create a domino effect that sets back all of my deadlines. While this is normal from time to time, I have to remember that I can’t keep going on full throttle. It’s not sustainable and can lead to burnout.

So how does someone find some middle ground where you’re being productive, have a nice workflow and can still weave new projects or other commitments into your schedule without majorly throwing things off? If you’re tempted to get out your productivity pom poms or read an article about how to scale better, I’m going to ask you to hold off.

An article by the Harvard Business Review addresses an issue that sometimes is overlooked. It’s called overcommitment. If hearing that goes in one ear and out of the other like someone telling you to eat more fruits and vegetables, you might need to follow a formula to get a real grasp of the concept. The article shows you how to make a time budget. It explains how to calculate it and why you should consider using it. This way you can be realistic and figure out how much time you really have to devote to what is important.

2. Build in a time cushion

Financial planners will often tell you to leave a cushion of extra money in your checking to cover expenses that might go over what you thought you would spend. This can help you to avoid overdrawing on your account or scrambling to pay for something. Do the same thing with your time. Remember to leave yourself ample time to complete your work. It’s not the sexiest thing to do and might even be perceived as unpopular but it’s vital to working in a more balanced way.

While we all experience times when we have to stay up to the wee hours to complete something or temporarily sacrifice participating in fun activities to finish our work, you shouldn’t have to function this way on a regular basis. If it’s the nature of the job, that’s one thing but even still, there’s almost always a way to pace your day while striking a balance between a productive work flow and bringing your career to the next level without having to work yourself to death.

3. Try to get a baseline.

If you’re a writer, think about how long it takes you to write 500 words. If you’re a graphic designer, think about how long it takes you to make a logo on average. Having this can help you pace your work better, know how much to charge and help you stick to your deadlines. Consider tracking your time too. You will be aware of how long it takes you to finish and can explain this when you are talking to a prospective client about your rate and the amount of time it will take you to complete a project.

The Bottom Line

If you find it challenging to check off items on your to do list on a regular basis and you constantly have to push deadlines up, you might have to tweak your time management and stop overcommitting. Consider using the tips mentioned to help you do this.



Karen is a Nationally Syndicated Personal Finance Writer who sharpens her skills at US News Money. You can also find her placing clients on podcasts and reading about home office organization, productivity and habits.

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