This post is written by a member of the Debut Student Publisher Network. Struggling with deadlines and feel like you can’t bounce back? It’s not too late, according to Zaki:
It’s happened to lots of us over the years. You get behind with a piece of work and then realise that you won’t get it in on time or, at least, not to an acceptable standard.
Whether it’s at university or at work, when you miss a deadline, you can find it difficult to catch up and stay positive. So what do you do?
Don’t dwell on it too much
Remember that it’s happened and there’s nothing you can do to change the past. When these things occur, I find that it’s all too easy to go into a decline, put it off and make more of a psychological mountain for yourself. The longer you leave it, the harder it’ll be to get back up to speed.
Tell yourself that it won’t make or break your degree classification or employment status. Undergraduates on essay-based courses are likely to submit 15 to 30 summative essays during the course of their degree. A late submission penalty is typically 10 marks. Broadly speaking, missing one essay deadline is likely to affect less than 0.5% of your overall mark. A good piece of work can be more than 10 marks better than a rushed one.
In a work context, it depends what the deadline was. Hopefully it won’t have too much of an impact on the company, and wasn’t in your first couple of weeks in the job. Always work extra hard to make a good first impression. Either way, the key is the recovery, making sure that you use your extra time to ensure it’s good but also don’t get behind with other work. How you respond and convey what happened is also important.
Communication, communication, communication – early!
Apologise to your line manager and explain why you don’t think you’ll be able to get it done on time. This shows you understand the implications for them or other colleagues who may have to do extra to make up for it. Did you find it challenging? Have you got any personal issues which have made it hard to focus or find time lately? The more communication, the better, but don’t make anything up.
Crucially, contact them to let them know you may struggle to make the deadline as early as possible. Give them a heads-up as early as you can so they have time to see if someone else can help. At the very least, doing this will manage their expectations. The last thing managers want is to only find out that a piece of work isn’t completed the moment it’s due in.
Obviously it can be different with academia, where late submissions carry automatic penalties. But apply for an extension if you have a valid reason to. Similarly, do it nice and early to allow yourself enough time to get the assignment done on time if the request is rejected.
Also, top tip: get help or advice from your personal tutor. And most importantly, don’t rely on the assumption that your extension will be granted or race to Netflix to celebrate though. There’ll be plenty of time for that once you’ve handed your work in.
Learn from your mistakes and make sure it doesn’t happen again
Remind yourself how stressed you got when fretting over missing that deadline. How you missed dinner. How you had to turn down the chance to go to the pub for a drink with your closest friends. Or a spare ticket to see your favourite band play. Use that to motivate yourself to start earlier next time, and to avoid distractions, whether that involves turning your phone off or working in the library rather than at home.
Also make sure not to take too much on. Whether that’s constantly offering to do bits of your colleagues’ work for them to be helpful or signing up to too many extra-curricular activities at university. Involvement in societies, sports clubs and student media can be great. But prioritise one or two groups and find a balance. Where you can, let committee colleagues know in advance that you’ll be bogged down with essays and therefore out of action during a particular week. And don’t offer to do things you won’t have time to do. That will risk letting them down too.