There is something about a looming deadline that can throw a normally centred and balanced person completely out of whack. If it is particularly important — a significant life event such as a wedding or a key work-based project that your career depends upon — normal rationale and logic goes out of the window! As stress levels soar, the deadline tends to dominate our perspective and not much else in our life gets a look in. We might neglect ourselves (eating the wrong foods, drinking excessively, not working out, not sleeping) or the people in our lives, putting additional strain and tension on our relationships.

At some level, we probably know how important it is not just to practise self-care, but to prioritise it. It’s also likely, at this time, that rather than seeking out additional help, we disappear into our cave and cut ourselves off from the very support network that could help to see us through. And the worst bit of all—we take ourselves out of our natural flow and ease and our productivity drops. Rather than being at our best, we struggle and battle to reach our goal, and it all takes a whole lot longer than we were expecting!

Take away the deadline and once more we find ourselves back in the zone moving effortlessly towards our goals. Those dastardly deadlines have a lot to answer for!

So how do we use deadlines to our advantage, so that they empower and inspire us, rather than zap our energy and well-being?

Idea #1 ~ Re-establish choice

The fastest way to ease back into your natural flow is to find ways to re-establish choice. This may not be possible in every circumstance but it may be possible in more situations than you first think.

Let’s imagine that you have to submit a job application form by a certain date to stand a chance of getting an interview. In this situation, you can remind yourself that applying for that job is still an option. Yes, it might seem as though it is a once in a lifetime opportunity but it is still a choice. You take back your power when you know that it is an option rather than the only way. From there, you are managing the deadline, rather than it managing you! I believe that you could make a case that any event on the horizon is still a choice. Understandably, it is more difficult to come to terms with that when there is a big investment (of money or energy) at stake. But being at choice will set you free again!

Idea # 2 ~ Manage expectations and renegotiate commitments 

You will probably  have heard the expression, “promise less, deliver more“.  And I am guessing you already know that everyone has a tendency to under-estimate how long tasks will take. Combine these concepts and the emerging philosophy must be to build in leeway into any commitments you make. So what do you do when the dawning realisation is that you over-promised? I think that generally we have become an inflexible nation. In this ‘must have’ era, we are less tolerant and more demanding. Let’s be honest, life is much less predictable these days. Can we know what will happen in the next week, let alone the next year. What if we all just lightened up a bit? I believe that commitments should be renegotiable. Of course there will always be times when delivery by a certain date is somewhat essential – receiving the flowers for your wedding a week later won’t exactly work. But where can you be more allowing? Don’t be afraid to ask for a review of your commitments too!

Idea # 3 ~ Dig deep – it’s down to you

So what about those deadlines that are immovable (especially those ones that your life depends upon!) There is only one solution and the good news (or bad news depending on how you look at it) is that it is down to you. If the situation can’t be changed, the only option is to change your response to the deadline. You going to have to dig deep and make a deliberate and conscious decision to be OK with whatever happens. Granted, all of those things that you are worrying about could happen. No one can take that away. But what is absolutely guaranteed is that as long as you are stressing and fighting against the deadline, you are stamping on all of your creativity, enthusiasm and energy. Let go of the worry and it is much more likely that a new idea or inspiration will show you a quicker or a better way. In my experience, when you nurture your own well-being, it is much more likely that time will expand to meet you. Remember it is not the deadline that causes you angst but rather the way that you handle it. Chill out and it is much more likely to work out!