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Tips for finishing work on time, not at the last minute

Whether you’re a marketing consultant or a software engineer, chances are you’ve been in that uncomfortable situation where you’re frantically trying to finish a task right before the due date, all the while asking yourself, “Why? Why didn’t I start this sooner?” It’s not a fun place to be.

Maybe you didn’t communicate well enough about your workload, or your schedule filled up suddenly, or you just plain procrastinated – by whatever means, you end up in “the scramble.”

The scramble is when you rush to finish work in a short time window before it’s due, often resulting in either lackluster work quality or serious burn out. In other words: you scramble to get things done, and it scrambles your brain. See? It’s a very fitting metaphor. I’m a genius.

But all joking aside – the scramble sucks. It not only hurts your work; it also hurts you by causing unnecessary stress. It’s an easy trap to fall into. So, if you feel like a scrambler, try these five tips to help you avoid the scramble and save your brain.


Schedule work time

You might make a mental note to work on a project one day, only to have meetings and other work get in the way. The result? You delay your project until it’s down to the wire.

Schedules are ever-changing, so if this keeps happening try booking time in your calendar specifically dedicated to working only on your project. This can be hour-long blocks, or even short 15-minute sprints with 5-minute breaks in between. Try both and see what works best!

This can also relieve stress because you know for a fact there is time for your project factored into your schedule – just be sure to follow through when the time comes.


Break it down

If a task is too broad, the steps to complete it can be vague. As a result, you may underestimate how much time you need, or realize with dread how much work it truly is once you’re deep into it.

Try breaking down big, intimidating tasks into sub-tasks. These are much easier to finish and set goals around.

For example: “Draft new product datasheet” can be broken down into:

  1. Research key product features
  2. Draft content
  3. Get design concept
  4. Send for feedback

Now you have a list of smaller tasks that can be easily accomplished within a reasonable amount of time. Not only does this help keep you on track, it can feel more satisfying to check things off as you go – and ultimately, you spend less time worrying and more time doing.


Ask for help

If you’re constantly scrambling, maybe you’re doing too much by yourself. It can be hard to ask for help. Sometimes it feels like failure – but it’s not! Collaboration can save you time and stress, and lead to a better outcome. That’s why we’re experts at it here at Audienz.

(To learn more about when to ask for help, check out this blog.)

Try reaching out to a colleague the next time you feel scrambled and ask if they can help brainstorm, do research, or even help with writing. In my experience, they’re usually happy to help, and worst-case scenario they’ll politely explain why they can’t.

Collaboration can even result in a better end-result for your project. As the saying goes: “Two heads are better than one!”


Start saying “no” (or “yes, but…”)

This might be the hardest one yet, because we always want to say “yes” to clients and our teammates. But saying “no” can help, too – or in some case, “yes, but…”

If you’re constantly scrambling to finish things on time, you might be taking on too much. And if you’re taking on too much, you risk it affecting the quality of all your work, as well as your ability to keep up. That’s not good for anyone.

Pause to take account of how much work you have, and honestly ask yourself “can I handle more?” If not, find a productive way to say “no” or “yes, but…” For example: you can recommend a colleague instead, agree to split the work, or ask about more flexible timelines.


Be kind to yourself

Lastly – don’t beat yourself up or overwork yourself! The scramble happens to everyone once in a while, but you can get out of it and avoid it in the future with the right habits. Stressing yourself out will only hurt you and your work.

So… step back, take a deep breath, and start taking steps to help avoid scramble. Your job – and your brain – will thank you for it.

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