Dreaded, Definitive, DEADLINES!

 ‘Deadline’ (ded-lahyn) noun

  1. the time by which something must be finished or submitted; the latest time for finishing something: a five o’clock deadline.
  2. a line or limit that must not be passed.
  3. (formerly) a boundary around a military prison beyond which a prisoner could not venture without risk of being shot by the guards.


You won’t end up in a military prison if you miss a deadline but you will find it beneficial to think about the consequences of not meeting a deadline. There is a sense of finality about a deadline but they are set for a reason – to make sure we complete a task on time. Some deadlines can’t be changed such as funding applications, or thesis submission dates, while others are there to ensure progress is made in a timely way.  Whether your deadlines are formal or not, it is important to consider the implications if you let things drag on. Meeting a deadline can make you feel good too so learning to get your tasks completed on time is an important skill all postgraduate students should learn.


Timeline zones for a DEADLINE!

So, a deadline is approaching – you have wallowed around in the blue zone for some time but now you are in the red zone (see above diagram). DON’T PANIC. Start with a tidy desk.  Yes that’s right… Creative blog.com suggests that this is exactly what you should do, stating that “A tidy desk is a tidy mind”. So get rid of all the distractions on your desk so you can focus your mind on what needs to be completed. While you’re at it, now is a good time to disengage yourself from social media; turn off or limit your electronic distractions! You have a deadline to meet.

Next, you need a plan so that you can move into the yellow zone without stressing too much. Firstly, draw up a list of tasks that need to be completed and working back from the deadline, assign a completion date for each task. A Gantt chart* is a useful way for managing your timeline to complete a project (Gantt charts can be easily drawn up in Microsoft EXCEL). Then, divide each task into smaller, manageable pieces. Start with the easier pieces first so that you gain some momentum. As you complete each piece, cross it off the list and have a small break/reward.  A step away from the screen and a bit of exercise will energise your mind and might even help solve that problem you were having trouble with.  If you are struggling with a concept, idea or statistical analysis – ask for help but don’t leave it until the last minute.

Likewise, if you want someone to proof read or edit your written documents, make sure you plan ahead and adjust your timeline accordingly. Supervisors won’t respond well to a tight turn around and you need time to consider those editorial comments.deadline

“Piled Higher and Deeper” by Jorge Cham www.phdcomics.co

Completing a research milestone helps to keep you motivated so even if your deadline is a long way off it pays to start planning now. Turn that Dreadful, Definitive, DEADLINE into a Delightful, Decisive, DEADLINE which you have control over.

* Henry Gantt devised the Gantt chart to illustrate a project schedule in the 1910s. A Gantt chart uses horizontal lines to show the amount of work done or start/finish dates for a series of tasks over a period of time.


Creative Bloq http://www.creativebloq.com/careers/deadline-stress-1232976 Retrieved 27 October 2016.

About Robyn Kannemeyer

Robyn Kannemeyer was the Researcher Development Coordinator at AUT from October 2016 to the beginning of March 2017. She has an MSc in biosecurity and conservation and is taking up a role at Landcare Research as an Environmental Social Scientist. She is passionate about conserving New Zealand’s unique biodiversity and recently returned from travelling through South Africa, Botswana, Namibia and Tanzania where she climbed Mt Kilimanjaro.

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