Deadlines - The Do’s, The Don’ts, and How to Cope

Your SU Education Team have put together advice on deadlines, taken from their own university experience.

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It’s been exactly a whole year now since I graduated from university, and from the bottom of my heart, I miss it so much; the socialising, the learning, the parties… but what I don’t miss is hearing the word “deadline.” So when my manager asked if I could write an article on deadlines and how to manage them, and then had the cheek to give me a deadline at the same time, I found myself in a strange paradox where I was stressing about reaching a deadline, whilst having to write about, well, managing reaching deadlines.

I proceeded to simultaneously laugh and cry for approximately 10 minutes after that.

See I was hit with a flashback from my first year in uni where every time a lecturer set a deadline, I’d go “yeah sure, I won’t write that down, I’ll definitely remember that and get it done in time, and definitely won’t prioritise going out” (famous last words right there.) And would you believe it, deadline after deadline, I never learned my lesson. I’d spend the 36 hours prior to the essay’s due date just pure panic-messaging all my classmates:

“Hey what did you say for…”, “do you have any notes on…”, “can I see what you put for…”

Albert Einstein once said “the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, and expecting different results”, so I was clearly insane for wondering why every time I didn’t write down my deadlines and give myself any sensible reminders, I was surprised to find myself in the most stressful time of my life. I mean Charles Darwin literally wrote an entire theory on survival of the fittest and adaptation, yet here I was, refusing to learn from my mistakes and adapt, like the absolute Dodo Bird I was.

So, I can assure you, all the advice you’re going to receive throughout this article will be coming from a true professional of stress-management and “deadline-meeter.” This is going to be a classic case of “do as I say, not as I do.” I mean, look at me now, this article isn’t due for another 7 weeks, but here I am, not being a silly goose and leaving it last minute #ChangedMan (well, when it comes to deadlines anyway.)

So, without further or do, let’s get this ball rollin’.


Let’s start off with a bit of science/fact about stress.

Generally, in healthy doses, stress is a good thing, it’s your friend. It acts as a motivator to help us get tasks completed. When stress becomes unhealthy is when you stay in “stress-mode” for elongated periods of time, putting a lot of pressure and strain on your mental health. Staying in “stress-mode” for too long can also compromise and weaken your immune system, and no one wants to fall ill when trying to stay concentrated meeting deadlines.

There are many ways we can cope with deadline-related-stress. Let’s start with the obvious one: organization. (I know, every time someone told me to be more organised, I wanted to throw a colour-coordinated folder at their face.)

But it’s true, factually speaking, the more organised we are, the more prepared we become for reaching a deadline, which results in us becoming less stressed than we’d need to be. It can be as simple as going into your reminders app and saying “X module, X essay, X due-date.” And even then, you can set a time and date for when to remind you to do it. Set an alarm on your phone to remind yourself to write it on your whiteboard when you get home. That’s the first thing I’d do. We have so much technology at our disposal, if you can go out of your way to send a meme to your mate, you can definitely do yourself a favour and set a reminder.

Time management

During uni, in between the parties, gigs and late nights (a.k.a. early mornings), my concept of time matched that of a toddler. Days blended way too easily, so I often found myself going from having 1 month until a deadline, to 2 days, within a blink of an eye. This is why time management is so important. Depending on the size of the assignment that’s due, I recommend allocating at least 2-4 hours a week to just getting that done. I’d also recommend allocating that time during the week, maybe 2, 2 hour slots between Monday and Thursday, because you’re already attending lessons during the week and in “uni-mode”, so it wouldn’t be a bad idea to keep that momentum rolling to help you get your work done on time. This also allows you to switch off and have Friday evening-Sunday evening to yourself. This is just a suggestion however, and I’d encourage you to find what works best for you.

Work Hard, Play Hard

At the Student’s Union, one of our “tattoos” (core beliefs) is that we should all enjoy and have fun with our time as much as we use it to work. So I’d like to remind you all that your brain is a muscle and that we all deserve to rest it after elongated periods of active use.

(Okay, it’s technically an organ, but you get the inspirational metaphor).

So don’t forget to set time aside to actually do the things you love and take active breaks. Not in the same way I did back in the day where I’d write 2 lines and be so proud of myself I’d celebrate by going out to my local pub until who knows what time… I mean, genuine, healthy, well-earned breaks. Take 5-10 minutes every hour to stretch your legs and have some water.

(Side note: I’d like to encourage you to have a separate workspace to where you sleep. Whether it’s zoom lessons or studying, try to avoid your bedroom as much as you can. There’s literally an entire campus with a 24/7 library. If you constantly pair your workspace with your rest space, you’ll never truly rest and this can also impact your sleep quality. (This isn’t related to deadlines, but I care about you and your mental health).

So there you have it, my advice on meeting deadlines! Long story short, don’t be a silly goose, don’t leave it last minute, and take care of your mental health during deadlines.

Good luck! I believe in you.


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