Why deadlines are your friend

Whether it’s a bill that’s due or an upcoming assessment, deadlines can be daunting.

Often the pressure of meeting them can cause us stress, however, deadlines are one of the necessary motivators in life that keep us moving forwards.

I’m sure a lot of people can relate to the pressure of ‘letting other people down’ if we don’t get things exactly right. At one time, I felt any pressure from others too much to bear and it seriously impacted the choices I made in my life.

As I couldn’t just avoid life completely, I thought distance learning would be a magic cure with no face-to-face teacher to disappoint and none of the social anxieties of being in a classroom. Surely having my education pretty much 100% in my own control would be much easier and allow me to still lead my day-to-day in the same way, right?

Wrong.

Doing things alone means there is only one person who suffers –  yourself. I am my own worst enemy and I have learnt that failing to meet my own high standards can leave me feeling even lower than simply handing in an assignment a day late.

Enough of the doom and gloom. Time to offload some of that pressure and use those pesky deadlines to our advantage for once.

Grab a pencil and your planner (aka spare piece of scrappy printer paper lying around). Use the following tips to re-evaluate the way you think about deadlines, focusing on the excitement of reaching your goals to free you from the weight of unnecessary pressure.

1. Step back – you are about to start climbing a mountain

Appreciating the task ahead of you will add to your sense of accomplishment at the end. Think about the outcome you are working towards, whether it’s to land your dream job or simply to expand you skills. Work out when you would like to achieve this by.

2. Break it down – you can’t get to the top without a climb

You need to consider the path you’ll take to reach your destination. Do you need to attain a certain qualification or gain some workplace experience? Working backwards, draft these paths into your timetable. You may not be quite there yet but you need an awareness of what’s on the horizon so you can plan each next step, starting with booking your assessment and planning your study schedule.

3. Equip yourself

It’s no good climbing a mountain in ballet shoes. You need to be prepared so that any hurdles you encounter don’t derail you from your ultimate goal. A lot of things will try to take your time away from study – whether it be your work, study space, childcare, even your yoga class. Make sure these are all planned for so that when it’s time to study you are focused and productive.

4. Take the first step

Start with a list of the units involved in your course and make a note of the key deadlines already set for completing assignments. If there are no set dates, then decide on your own timeframes. Tackle each section one at a time, moving on when you are satisfied you understand the part you are focusing on. Schedule regular time to study. Try to aim for when you will be most likely to be productive. For me it’s first thing in the morning.

5. Enjoy

Don’t turn study into a chore. You’re going to have to be committed, brave and strong to reach the top. There will be times when you find things more difficult and feel a bit behind. Remember this is normal. After all, if you knew it all to begin with, your course would be pointless.

Amy Rowe is a former AAT student and a freelance writer reflecting on personal experiences. She covers a range of topics including lifestyle, wellbeing and study skills.

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