One of the biggest problems many mums face when trying to get new careers or businesses off the ground, is making time to meet important deadlines.
The truth is that without setting and meeting deadlines, it’s difficult to get anywhere fast. And while most of us can relate to the struggle of finding the time to do so, for mums it can seem virtually impossible. Between school runs, shopping, housework, cooking, childcare and spending quality time with your family, it can often feel like there’s little time left for your needs.
Why strategies matter more than time
The good news is that you don’t actually need a lot of time to achieve a spectacular amount of work – it’s much more important to have a great strategy. And while you can’t perform a miracle and squeeze a few extra hours into your day (or magic yourself an extra pair of hands) you can learn simple strategies to get much more done.
12 strategies to help you meet your deadlines
Learning to meet your deadlines is as simple as following these easy tips!
1) Learn to care
The first, and easiest, is simply to care about them! If you really want to achieve your deadlines, you’ll prioritise them when necessary and naturally look for ways to make them happen.
2) Keep a list
A forgotten deadline doesn’t stand a chance of being met! So keep your deadlines front of mind by making a list of them and ticking them off as you go. We’ve found that keeping a simple, week-view diary helps us. Every day we write what needs to be achieved and when, and cross out as they’re done.
3) Give yourself time
When setting deadlines, try to build in a cushion to account for the X-factor – anything unexpected that may come up and prevent you from getting things done. A more realistic time frame is much more likely to guarantee success in meeting your deadlines, so always give yourself a bit of extra time.
4) Break big deadlines down into steps
If your deadline is big or far off, break it down into smaller, easily achievable chunks along the way. Not only will this help keep you on track and on time, but you’ll be motivated by a sense of accomplishment as you tick off smaller goals.
5) Focus on the now
Don’t worry about how you’re going to tackle a difficult project, or whether you can meet your massively ambitious end goal, concentrate on what you need to do right now. If you successfully achieve all your mini goals, you’ll gradually work towards your end deadline and a successful outcome.
6) Block out the time you need
If time is tight, it can also help to break down larger deadlines into smaller, more realistic time chunks. You’ll be surprised at how much you can get done even in just 10 minutes if your time is concentrated and focussed. Try to find half an hour a day – in one chunk or smaller ones – and set yourself targets for that time. Over a week that adds up to three and a half hours of accomplishments. It’s also much easier to carry on a project once you’ve started it, so you may find yourself grabbing an extra 10 minutes here and there (even if it’s just thinking in the car on your way to the school run).
7) Learn from your mistakes
If you often miss deadlines, try to work out why that might be. Are you really committed to your goal? Is it what you really want to achieve? And do you fully believe you have the ability (or right) to attain it? Do you unconsciously self-sabotage by creating ‘must-dos’ whenever a personal deadline looms? When you understand what may lay behind your past failures, you can learn to adapt and expect more success in future.
8) Work out your most productive hours
Are you a naturally early riser? Or a regular night owl? Learn how to make the most of your innate waking patterns to meet important deadlines. So if your energies are high in the morning, set your alarm to wake an hour or so before the rest of your family and get some precious work done while the house is quiet. Or if you’re more inspired in the evenings, maybe put aside a couple of nights a week to work on your plans, rather than watch TV.
9) Clear your diary of any niggles
If you have a deadline looming, get smaller tasks that can be done in advance out of the way. Call anyone you need to, ensure your shopping is done or ordered online, and pay bills by direct debit. With no niggling distractions you can give your complete attention to the task at hand and achieve more in a shorter space of time.
10) Create a clear working space
Just as having things hanging around on a mental to-do list can distract you from achieving your deadlines, so can piles of work and mess around you. If every time you break for thought you see a pile or ironing in the corner, or last week’s bills or filing still awaiting attention, you’ll find it much harder to focus. So ensure your workspace is clear and tidy, and any mess or tasks that are less urgent are out of sight and mind!
11) Eliminate distractions
We don’t need to tell you how easy it is to just quickly check Facebook or Twitter before you start work, or when you’re stuck on something tricky. But getting sucked into online chats or your friend’s holiday photos is very unlikely to help you meet your deadline. So be firm with yourself and eliminate any distractions before you start work. Turn the TV off, put away magazines and close down any sites you enjoy browsing (you can even install tools that can prevent from going online or visiting social media sites if you’re worried you have a weak will!).
12) Get support from others
And finally, tell your friends and family what you want to achieve and ask for their help. Can they help out with childcare – even just whisking your kids off to the park for an hour? Could your partner take over the bedtime routine a couple of nights a week, or take the kids out on a Saturday morning to buy you more work time? As well as giving you emotional and practical support, making your deadline public knowledge can also help spur you on to achieve it.
What’s your strategy for meeting deadlines? What does and doesn’t work for you? Share your experiences with us on our Facebook page.Hannah Martin