Anticipate deadlines

Clock showing deadline and time

My life is one big deadline. If it is not patients wanting the impossible done yesterday, then editors seem intent on filling up my writing diary as quickly as I can empty it. My bank manager is happy, but whether this is good for me is another matter.

As a control freak, I must keep on top of any project and have time to spare. This can be a catch-22 situation, since I also need the stimulus of an approaching deadline to focus my attention on finishing a project.

One successful writer I know waits until he has bills that need paying, then sits down at his desk with them in front of him and starts writing – it never fails. If you feel you work best with the adrenalin surge of starting a project a few hours before a deadline, fine. However, this does not allow for unexpected events, which have a nasty habit of occurring when you least expect them. It makes more sense if, mentally, you bring forward a deadline by 48 hours and make sure you complete the work by then, apart from any minor alterations you may need to make. This is especially true if you are giving a presentation, since your anxiety will be less if you have rehearsed what you are going to say beforehand. Public-speaking gurus have this as their main tip, saying the three main ways to speak confidently in public are to prepare, prepare and prepare.

Most deadlines involve a number of people in a team, which means they can be sabotaged by a team member not pulling their weight, or by an unrealistic deadline set by someone not directly involved. This rapidly leads to a loss of motivation and frustration; jobs are either left half-done or not done at all. Although in an ideal world everyone would work efficiently all the time, life is not like that, and a work team is only as good as its weakest cog. Don’t let this distract you from completing any work you have to do ahead of time, and to the best of your ability. Even if nothing comes of it in the end, your contribution will add to your self-worth; but do not allow other people to hijack your efficiency by getting you to do their work for them. Being efficient is one thing, being used as a workhorse is another. Keep your mental checklist of deadlines ahead of schedule and you will get control back, instead of allowing dead lines to control you.

Plan to meet deadlines early – at least 48 hours before you need to. Some people enjoy the adrenalin kick of working to the last minute, but this leaves no buffer zone for the unexpected.


Image courtesy of North Charleston

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