What are your best time-management tips for staying organized and meeting deadlines? originally appeared on Quora - the place to gain and share knowledge, empowering people to learn from others and better understand the world.
If setting the deadline is within your power, then always offer a date a few days or weeks after you're sure you can finish the task. Things will turn up, like other work demands, illness or injury (your own or someone else's), or a colleague failing to meet their deadlines.
If setting the deadline is not under your control, then set a personal deadline days or weeks ahead of the true deadline, and stick to it with the same level of determination as if it were the true deadline. Things will come up, etc.
Keep your task list in one place. Move tasks immediately from email or other correspondence to the calendar or journal that you use to build your 'to do' list. If it's impossible to attend to correspondence immediately, flag it red until you do attend to it, and never have so many red flags that your brain learns to ignore them. Don't be that person who reads an email, forgets to record the task and deadline, and then forgets the work itself.
Set two alarms for your tasks, one two or more days in advance, another on the deadline day itself. Use a timer to make sense of how long you spend doing things. If you plan to spend an hour on copy edits before going out to run errands, set the timer and do so.
And if you're considering a career in writing, discipline your muse. Teach it to show up when you do. Whether you're pondering plot as you browse the supermarket shelves, picking character names as you weed the garden, or sitting in front of your computer and typing out your draft, make it work when you want it to work.
Be hungry. That's more than a metaphor. When you rely on met deadlines to produce income or opportunities that you need to put food on your table or progress in your career, you will find out what works for you. You will determine what you need--whatever combination of more sleep, improved diet, exercise, therapy, medication, support and encouragement is required--in order to get the work done.
Because if you don't, you'll starve or stagnate.
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