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How to survive a deadline in 5 easy steps

According to ‘Overworked America’ (Boushey H., Ansel B., 2016), the USA are among the most overworked countries in the world with more than 30% managers, close to 30% lawyers, and almost 20% of architects and engineers working over 45 hours per week. Why don’t we talk about it?
If this is how you feel about an approaching deadline, keep reading. Nina says hi. 

Overtime… It is not only the opportunity to make a few extra bucks what motivates people to stay late perfecting that report but also growing competition at the workplaces convinces employees to show their dedication, loyalty, and hard work. In my European eyes of a bystander, it is also the American drive for entrepreneurship and success. In the aforementioned paper, it is discussed whether overtime is a factor increasing the issue of the gender pay gap. When it comes to the ratios of overworked men to women, men are the vast majority (for instance, over 50% of men vs. over 20% of women in management). The way it contributes to the problem is straightforward – ‘Overworked America’ brings up a study performed by P. Stone and M. Lovejoy at Hunter College and the City University of New York who found that almost 90% of women who gave up their careers, did so due to the lack of flexibility in their schedule and too much overtime. This, of course, is in my opinion only the tip of the iceberg, as it reinforces the image of women as the parties responsible for the hearth and home, while the man’s responsibility is to bring home the bacon. Well, not only is bacon not vegan (yes, I am joking!), but we as a society are also long over the idea of an absent father. It appears to me that the stem of the problem is not within the overtime, but within the binary pressure put on either of the genders. While in my opinion balancing the duties should always be a priority, it is not always the case. Personally, most of my weeks consist of over 45 hours of work, and, if we think about it more, with all my extracurricular activities which I take up with the thought of self-improvement, I will hit 60 hours in no time. However, for as long as these things are exciting to me, I don’t feel the burnout. Unless… it is the case of the dreaded, unwanted, loathable… Yes – you named it. THE DEADLINE. It’s a fast-paced, usually short-term abomination that hits you in your weakest spot. Sounds familiar? 
Boushey, H., & Ansel, B. (n.d.). Overworked America. Retrieved from 
So, here are my five solid tips on how to survive a tougher period at work:

1. Work efficiently, not just a lot.

Let’s start the list from heavy artillery: in my opinion, working long hours does not make you a good worker, and the sooner you understand this, the better for you. Many of us were raised in a culture where the more you studied, the more your efforts were appreciated. The best students were the ones who wrote the longest essay and solved all the laborious equations and took up a project for extra credits. Here is the secret: it is not the case at work. You are expected to do as much work as possible in as little time as possible. It is also in your best interest to get your shit done by 5 so that you can go home take care of your family and do whatever else your heart desires. Overtime may not only be a sign of you being a dedicated employee – it may also be a signal that you are not efficient with the amount of work you are given. Be careful, and take care of yourself. My best tip to achieve this is: think for half an hour and then work for five minutes instead of thinking for five minutes, working for half an hour, and spending the night correcting a mistake you could have easily avoided. 

2. Ask for help.

Asking for help is a sign of weakness – yes – but, you are not expected to not be weak unless you are aiming to beat Mike Tyson, in which case absolutely, do lift iron all the time by yourself. There is nothing wrong with being weak and human. Constantly stretching your personal limits makes you way weaker than that, and less satisfied. If your team does not have the intuition to ask you if you need help – tell them. If they offer – don’t reject help. You matter too, and you’ll help them out when they need you. 
Photo by Victor Freitas from Pexels

3. Take care of yourself first. 

This is a big one and even though it may be the last thing you wanna think about when the disaster is on your mind, try to force yourself to do this and you will thank me very soon. First and foremost, eat nutritious foods! Increase your calorie intake by a little bit and add a generous amount of fresh vegetables, legumes, fruit, nuts, and seeds, and whole grains. Drink a lot of water. You do not want to be on a calorie deficit when your mind and body are stretched thin. It’s like running on empty… on high gear. 
Speaking of running – take at least 20 minutes every day to exercise – alternate between a brisk walk, a run, yoga or stretching and some strength training. It’s important to keep your blood circulating. For this reason also try not to sit the entire day – try standing for a while, walk around the office, sit on an exercise ball… 
Now, this may be controversial to some, but get as much sleep as you can, no matter what, at all costs. If it gives you an extra 20 minutes of sleep – do take a cab home. Do take a nap on the office sofa even if you’re gonna make it to the next office meme. Sleep is essential and will help you greatly with your health, which should always be your priority but also item number 1: efficiency. Working when you are exhausted may get you in a lot of trouble if you actually do make a detrimental mistake. 

4. Choose your boosters wisely. 

Overusing caffeine can sooner or later result in some unpleasant symptoms. We’ve all been there – twitching eye, painful calf cramps or heart palpitations? Yup, this may hit you during or right after your tough week. Try other natural energy boosters such as guarana, ginseng root, reishi mushroom coffee. The latter is my personal favorite and the coffees are often fortified with magnesium and B12 vitamin, which are exactly what you need at the time of heightened stress and effort. 

The sun is rising, you are still awake, nowhere near the end, and the damn birds start singing so loudly that your head is about to split in half. Sounds about right, eh?

5. Try light therapy.

Access to natural light informs us that it is our productive time of the day, therefore it boosts our energy levels and mood. We feel like doing things – and doing them more efficiently. If we are outside, we also get to indulge in some vitamin D, which is an important factor contributing to the well-being of our immune system, mental and cognitive health, and more. However, if it’s currently winter or you live in an area where access to sunlight is limited, make sure to not only keep your vitamin levels in check and supplement as necessary but also have a daily dose of light. Personally, I invested in a light therapy lamp and it has brought upon me great results in terms of mood improvement. I’m also way less sleepy during the day with less caffeine and I am sure it helped me push through my last deadline. 
Do you have some tips that you could give me to help me out next time I’m in these shoes? Let me know in the comments and I hope you love the work you do – that’s definitely something that makes deadlines less painful!

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