How to handle a time crunch

Jul 23, 2015

You can buy lots of things in this wide world, but you can’t by time.

Sometimes, despite all of your planning and preparation, you get caught in a time crunch. Client 1 needs their draft back TOMORROW – and whoops, so does Client 2!

You have 24 hours to do an inhuman amount of work – and nobody wants excuses. It’s not fair, it wasn’t preventable; but you can mourn and rant later, because right now you gotta WORK FAST.

You can feel the panic rising as you think of everything that’s on your plate… so how do you manage this time crunch, without losing your mind?

1.) Make a plan

Before you start working, take twenty minutes to sit down and make a plan.

Put your priorities in order: Are there any minor corners you can cut without sacrificing quality? Can you add in finishing touches last, and get fundamentals done first?

Laying out your plan of attack will give you perspective on the tasks at hand and reduce the temptation to spiral into a Panic Vortex.

2.) Trim the fat

Are there any other tasks you need to do within this timeline – and can you put any of them off?

When we’re really pressed for time, it can feel like every task is equally important – it’s part and parcel of getting overwhelmed.

But odds are something in your life can wait. That bathtub can stay dirty for 24 hours, your friend will forgive you for cancelling a coffee date, and your laundry will not burst into flames because it is left undone.

When I’m really pressed, I tend to outsource minor chores like laundry (hello, drop-off service) or food prep (hello, delivery man).

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3.) Work on the 45/15 method

If you’re determining your own schedule in your time crunch, work on the 45/15 method. That means that for every 45 minutes of work, you attempt to take a 15 minute break.

Yes, I hear your stressed-out little brains cracking from here: “WHO HAS 15 MINUTES?”

15 minutes is not much time, actually. It’s about enough time to stretch, walk around a tiny bit, stuff some food in your mouth, and go to the bathroom.

This is always important, but ESPECIALLY crucial when your whole body is flooded with adrenaline as you rush to meet your deadline.

Taking little breaks allows your brain to calm down a bit; it makes you work more effectively on your 45-minute intervals, and keeps you from getting too overwrought. It’s actually MORE efficient.

4.) Leave time to proofread and edit (seriously)

Leave time for edits and close proofreading, as well as any ‘emergency’ fixes. If you suspect that you’ll be pulling a late-nighter, schedule proofing for AFTER you’ve gotten some sleep.

Consider asking someone to look over your final product; another pair of eyes can be a lifesaver.

Remember: Your project is not really ready to send until it’s been looked over at least once.

Don’t kill yourself to hit a deadline just to send an error-ridden project because you were too exhausted to function. Build in the time to review!

You can’t buy time, but you can do your best within the limits set for you – and the good news is that, 90% of the time, you’ll complete everything successfully by your deadline.

We’re all pulling for you, freelance comrade; ready, set, go! Tick… tock… tick… tock….

Kate Hamill lives and works in New York City, where she consumes an inordinate amount of Sriracha daily. You can catch up with her on Twitter at @katerone.