You’re busily at work on a huge project. You have an end of day deadline, but you know you can make it: everything’s going perfectly.

Then the phone rings, or you make that fatal mistake of checking your email, and your world comes crashing down. Another client or another boss needs their project done now. So now it’s crunch time. Someone has to win, and someone has to lose.

This is something that’s incredibly hard for me to deal with. I’m not one of those people who loves the wooshing sound deadlines make as they fly by.  I want things to be there on time, and I want to be responsive to customers when they call needing something STAT. What’s a girl to do?

Currently, I attempt to frantically get everything done within the old and the new deadlines. Unfortunately, this usually results in one of two things: Long hours and a stressed Allison, or quickly done work that isn’t up to my usual standards, which leads to unhappy customers in the long run.

So I’m working on being more firm with the last minute deadlines that pop up. Sure, there will always be little emergencies that can (and should) be dealt with. But if something can genuinely wait, I’m working on this phrase: “I’m working on a tight deadline today, but I can have that for you by (tomorrow, next week).” That’s it. A simple little phrase that gets people to slow down, realize that just like them, we’re juggling multiple priorities and doing our best.

Setting priorities and deadlines should be an important part of a small business strategy.  How do you deal with people who demand your attention right this second? What’s your strategy for dealing?