How to Keep Calm in the Face of Last Minute Projects


One of the main bugbears of modern office life is that you are very rarely in total control of your working week.

More often than not, just when you think you have your working week nicely scheduled and divided into manageable chunks, something large and unexpected will arrive in your inbox and leave those best laid plans in tatters.

Here are seven key steps to take in order to blast through even the largest of deadline-driven tasks and last minute projects when the chips are down.

1. Look the thing in the eye

The natural initial reaction to a huge pile of unexpected work is to simply pretend that it doesn’t exists. It sounds like a crazy strategy when you see it written down in black and white for a very good reason – it is indeed a crazy strategy!

Yet, we’ve all fallen victim to the temptation at one time or another.

Regardless of how unpalatable it might be, your first step is calmly assessing the task in front of you and sketching out a plan.

2. Talk with your team

The sooner you start discussing the project at hand with other people in your company, the quicker you can find out whether you have access to other resources to share the load.

Something simple as a quick bit of feedback from a colleague can make a world of difference when you’re up against a deadline.

Retreating into your own private worry world, on the other hand, is a recipe for disaster. Stay social.

3. Trace your steps

One of the first things to typically go out the window when a crunch is on is any form of documentation or note-taking. This is nearly always a mistake.

Documenting your work as you go will not only save you oceans of time if you have to repeat the task, it will also give you clarity in the middle of what is an already stressful situation. Skipping this step is a false economy.

4. Don’t be afraid to delegate

You’ve just found out that there is a mountain of unexpected work to be done by the end of the week. This doesn’t mean all the work has to be done by you!

Identify the project parts where you can add most value and look to delegate the rest to trusted co-workers.

5. One bite at a time

How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.

Even the most complex and daunting of projects is ultimately just a series of sequential steps.

Don’t let the size of the mountain you are trying to scale intimidate you. Instead, stay focused on putting one foot in front of the other and your progress will be much more certain.

6. Own your achievements

As you make progress towards your goal, don’t be afraid to take time to acknowledge minor victories. Small wins keep morale and momentum high. Give yourself and your team a pat on the back when the situation warrants it.

7. Stay on target

Use a combination of the steps so far to help you stay calm and keep your eyes fixed firmly on the ultimate goal of your project.

When deadlines are tight and the pressure is on, it’s tempting to get lost in minutiae and mindless busywork. Make sure you’re staying aware of the overall purpose of your project at all stages.

Nobody likes getting lumped with last-minute projects or tasks, but they’re an unavoidable fact of life in the modern workplace. Use our seven simple steps above and you’ll be able to maintain your cool while tackling even the trickiest of tasks!

Tracey Daniel

Director at

Hi SavvySME Community, I am a Business Strategist and Mentor with 20 years’ experience and a CPA qualification in finance, accounting and business. I work with SME business owners who want to regain control of their personal and professional life and build a sustainable, profitable and sellable business. My passion lies in helping clients achieve what they’ve always dreamed they could achieve through their businesses. I look forward to connecting with you soon.

Comments (1)
Jef Lippiatt

Jef Lippiatt, Owner at Startup Chucktown

Lots of great tips, thanks for sharing.