How to Deal with Deadline Emergencies

16.08.2017 |

Episode #10 of the course How to overcome procrastination by Jurgen Wolff


In the previous lessons, we covered a range of ways to overcome procrastination and reach your goals on time. However, it’s good to have an emergency procedure in place for any time when missing a deadline is inevitable. That’s what you’ll find in this lesson.


Talk to Yourself in the Third Person

Your 1st step is to stay calm (or regain calmness if you’re freaking out).

Most people talk to themselves, either out loud or silently. Research at Michigan State University reveals that if you want to control your emotions, talking to yourself in the third person is more effective than doing so in the first person.

You might normally talk to yourself with a statement like, “I don’t know where to start now that I’m so close to the deadline!” That’s the first-person statement, and it’s often accompanied by a feeling of panic or hopelessness.

As you’ve seen before, using the third person gives you distance, almost like it’s happening to another person, and we always find it easier to solve other people’s problems. Also, we tend not to get as emotional about other people’s issues as our own.

Once you’ve calmed down, you’re ready to take action.


Use the Emergency Room Strategy

To gain control of a project that’s far behind, use the same strategy employed by doctors and nurses in the Emergency Room triage. That means determining what is the most urgent to deal with 1st. Often, that is to let the other people concerned know that you’re not going to make your delivery date.


Honesty Is the Best (If Not the Most Comfortable) Policy

It’s natural to be reluctant to admit to the people waiting for what you’re supposed to deliver that it’s not going to happen on time.

However, it’s a good idea to let them know as soon as possible in case they need to make adjustments to their schedule.

Commit to a new delivery date that you are certain you can meet. Most people will excuse you for missing a deadline once, but if you miss the next one as well, they are not likely to be as forgiving.


Recap: What You’ve Learned

Whether it’s for a project that’s behind schedule or one you’re just starting, you can apply any and all the tools you’ve gained in this course. To recap, that includes these major steps:

• List all the tasks that have to be done in order to finish the project. For bigger tasks, chunk down.

• Number them in order of priority, and see whether any could be done faster if they’re grouped.

• Go over the list and see which, if any, can be outsourced. Delegate those. Build a cushion into the delivery dates—that is, make sure you ask for delivery a few days before you actually need it, in case there are problems.

• Use the various tools—rewards and punishment, the Alter Ego Strategy, ways to eliminate distractions, the Pomodoro Technique, etc.—to get the tasks done as quickly and effectively as possible.

• Keep going until you’re done. If you can deliver in advance of the 2nd deadline you declared, so much the better. Don’t forget to celebrate the completion.

• Make doing these steps a habit and record your progress.

My final note: please don’t forget to use all these great methods. They’ve allowed many people (including me) to become ex-procrastinators, and they can do the same for you.

All the best,

Jurgen Wolff


Recommended book

Focus: Use the Power of Targeted Thinking to Get More Done by Jurgen Wolff


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