Diamond Discussions: Tips for a Deadline Environment
At Diamond Media Solutions, we sometimes work within an intense deadline-oriented environment, especially during our peak times of the month. Although we are known for our innovative and attractive creative, we must also meet hard deadlines to ensure our client’s projects are presented to consumers on time. During these times, it is easy to become anxious and stressed about our work. We have learned that we must not let this happen, as it can lead to loss of productivity and errors. As production manager, I presented some tips for the team on ways to mitigate the effects of these high-volume times. These were presented in no particular order.
Tip 1: Prioritize Your Tasks
Productivity falls greatly if you are not working on the correct items first and this becomes critical if you have multiple hard deadlines. Make a to do list in order of importance and flag the hottest items, watch for tasks to pop up on those hot items and take care of them first. Re-evaluate your list throughout the day and utilize digital calendar reminders to keep you on track.
Tip 2: Do Your Best to Reduce Distractions
Distractions are going to happen where there is nothing we can do to prevent, especially if we work at home. But there are some ways to reduce certain distractions or extraneous tasks that can take too much of our attention. You can find the most efficient way to communicate a certain type of information. Do you need an email chain when a quick instant message or call will do? Limit or eliminate unnecessary communication channels. The more sources of communication you need to always check, the more time that will take. When you have a deadline-intensive important task to do, block off a specific time and let everyone know you will not be available so you can concentrate. Check and respond to emails and notifications at specific intervals during the day.
Tip 3: Front Load Your Days and Week
Have you heard of the term “Eat The Frog?” It comes from a quote by Mark Twain, “If it’s your job to eat a frog, it’s best to do it first thing in the morning.” Identify the hardest, most important task of the day and do it first thing in the morning. This accomplishment will build momentum for the rest of the day and make everything else seem easier. In this respect, also try and tackle larger projects in the beginning of the week.
Tip 4: Reach Out If You Need Help
None of us work in a vacuum and a great team of coworkers includes the willingness to ask and give help. Communicate as soon as possible if you have too much and you feel you will not make your deadline. If you are stuck on a task, reach out, do not struggle, take time and become frustrated. If you are not sure on a procedure, ask about it. A quick question and answer can save a lot of time in the future if something has not been done correctly. Is a co-worker going to be doing the same task but for their project? Could you trade off tasks? Studies have shown that our brains handle a series of the same types of tasks more efficiently.
Tip 5: Avoid Multi-tasking
Although many of us pride ourselves on our multi-tasking abilities, studies have shown that we are not as good at it as we think. Some research suggest that multi-tasking can reduce productivity up to 40%! Try your best to devote total attention to one task at a time, following your priority order list.
Tip 6: Communicate as Clearly As Possible
A large loss of productivity arises from having to redo something because of poor communication at the beginning of a project or task. Make sure to select the right communication medium for what is needed and utilize the tools available. Provide enough details, adequate information, or background. Act as if those receiving the communication have no prior knowledge, a little extra time here can save a lot of time later. Share relevant new information as soon as possible. Communicate your progress with your team and any potential challenges right away.
Tip 7: Prep and Do Legwork in Downtime
A lot of stress nearer to the deadline can be relieved if some time-consuming, tedious tasks are already out of the way. If you find that you have a slower period of workflow, take advantage as much as you can. Identify tasks that can be prepped ahead. Can something be automated? Now is the time to set it up. Can a process be more efficient? This is the time to adjust it. Learn a new skill that will make you more efficient in your job for later or improve on a skill. Clean off your desk, and computer desktop, organize files. This will mentally help you in crunch time and save time if searching for something later.
Tip 8: Stay Motivated and Relieve Stress
Staying motivated and stress free is extremely important for productivity and mastering your deadlines. Make sure to do things that work for you. Reward yourself after completing a difficult task. Give yourself a break. Keep your productivity up and avoid burnout by taking your allowed breaks and lunches. Do something you enjoy, boosting yourself up if needed. Avoid negative thinking, find positive actions such as focusing on the tasks you are achieving. When things get crazy, try to find humor in the situation which is a big stress reliever.
Intense deadlines can be very challenging, but through use of the tools at our disposal and best practices such as the tips above it is possible to meet your deadline and keep your quality high and your stress levels low.
Theresa Maye is the Production Manager for Diamond Media Solutions.