Saturday, December 26, 2009

Meeting Deadlines

I'm usually good about meeting deadlines. As long as I see the end of the trail on the calendar, I can manage to pace myself to be ready by then. That may still mean I am up all night until the last minute meeting the deadline, but by the time the sun rises, or sets, determined by how I perceive the actual time and day due ("Is that beginning or end of day?"). The closest I ever got was in high school, when I once finished a paper due after lunchon a portable typewriter at lunch in the schoolyard.

A friend gave me a paperweight that says "The ultimate inspiration is the deadline". I keep it on my writing desk to remind me that writing is work, not magic, and that there will be times when you have to finish, inspired or not. That's when the reflexes kick in, the muscles built up over years that know what you need to write and think it out, fill in the space enough for inspiration to strike. It comes in funny ways sometimes -- take this piece. I was supposed to be visiting my sisters today until they rescheduled me for tomorrow. It was only then that I looked at the calendar and realized that I let the holidays distract me from my deadline reminder for today's blog.

As I struggled to think of what I could say to fill in a page or two at the last minute it hit me. A piece on meeting deadlines. How appropriate! So the little I have to say comes to this:

- Use a calendar! Put the day your project is due on it, and a reminder a week or days before to give you a nudge. I actually like to make my own deadline a day or two before the client's deadline.

- Pay attention to your calendar! Don't just write things down, look at them every day and assess how much progress you've made.

- Pace yourself! Do a little every day. Don't put it off thinking you can cram through it like a midterm final. Give your work the time it takes to be its best. It's better to have it done and a day or two to correct and rethink.

- Give yourself enough time. If you are given a task and have the ppwer to set the deadline, make it one that REALLY gives you the time to do the work well. I tend to undercut the time I give myself, in an unconscious attempt to make the client happy, but have started to add days to weeks (depending on the overall time available) more than my first impulse. I'd rather turn it in early than late.

You can't always control how work is received, but you can always determine when. Being a good writer should include being a professional, not an artiste or a dilettante. As my obligations increase, I am still working on making sure I can meet them. It is a continuing struggle, but one worth the effort.

1 comment:

Liane Spicer said...

Terence, I wonder sometimes if I'd ever get anything done without deadlines nipping at my heels. O_O

I never thought I'd desert my paper calendars and diaries, but my son introduced me to Google Calendar and it's a great tool. It allows you to set as many reminders as you like. You can set it to e-mail your daily agenda to your account. And you can share it, and color code it for the various parties whose info goes in. :D

I'm working on pacing myself instead of leaving everything for a nail-biting, heart pounding sprint at the end. I'm getting there.