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Managing the stressors of end of year deadlines

Written by Jenny Scott on 29 Nov 2022

Between the upcoming Christmas break and the end of year pressure over final deadlines and assignments it’s not surprising that stress and tension can really begin to rise at this time of year.  

So how can we stay on top of all those lists of things to do without stress getting the better of us? Ultimately, we’ve got to get planning. Okay yes, we all know that but how? Endless lists and dates in the diary won’t necessarily cut it.  

There are 5 key principles when it comes to planning:  

  1. Be realistic about how much you can cover. Assess the detail of your tasks to divide them into chunks. Estimating how long things take can be a challenge but the more you do it the better you’ll become at it.    

  1. Plan everything. There isn’t a separate 24-hour period for eating, sleeping, washing clothes, walking the dog. The likelihood is if you don’t plan it in, it won’t get done, or it will be rushed and compromise other activities.   

  1. Plan early on. Planning the evening before was considered the best way to anticipate a challenging task-oriented day. Effective planning the evening before seems to improve the quality of the work, if not the speed of starting it.   

  1. Prioritise to avoid wasting time on tangents or low impact work. Masanobu Fukuoka, the scientifically trained Japanese farmer and philosopher, captured this in the following question - “What can I not do today?” Focus on the essential requirements to avoid wasted effort.   

  1. Play to your strengths. By matching your planned chunks of activity to the times of day when you are generally more or less efficient you will avoid over-facing yourself and stopping work altogether.  If you perform best first thing that’s going to be your time to get stuck into the more challenging tasks! 

If you’re a procrastinator tools, like a pomodoro timer, can help keep you focused and on point, especially when it comes to the things that you really don’t want to do. For me editing final documents is not something I cherish, but give me a cup of tea, a chocolate biscuit, and 45 minutes on the clock and it’s amazing how much I can get done. 

Managing conflicting priorities can be challenging but if you consider what’s urgent (got to be done now) and what’s important, you can schedule these things first. Another packet of mince pies from Sainsburys might not be missed but a card for a family member living on their own will be. 

For me ticking things off as I go gives me a great sense of achievement each day and helps me review and reassess where I’m at throughout the month.  

As the season rolls on it’s important to think about yourself too, running yourself ragged won’t help anyone. Tap into your personal therapeutic toolbox. If you know what works for you when it comes to managing stress, be it yoga, a gym session, time with friends or simply some alone time with a good book, make sure you find time to schedule these things in to prevent burn out. And if you don’t know what works for you, think about what refreshes and energises you and tap into those activities.  

Lastly, now is a great time to prepare for January so when you return to work you know exactly what to be getting on with. Having a good clear out of old notes and rubbish will really help you start the new year as you mean to go on. 

Good luck and have a lovely festive season!