A Blogazine, based out of Park Slope, Brooklyn, that features fun and interesting articles. Topics include: parenting, society, real estate, career, style, spirituality and more. Written contributions are always welcome!

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Embrace the Deadline

By Chrysta Baker

In our crazy, busy world deadlines are everywhere. Deadlines are set for meetings at work, projects at school, bills at home, and goals in life. While many people loathe the dreaded deadline and curse its very existence, I try to embrace it as a guiding hand in my overscheduled and complex life. Without deadlines we wouldn’t get any work done, would never finish a project, would never pay a bill, and would most certainly never achieve half of our own personal goals. As with everything, there is a beginning, middle, and end to all the things that affect us throughout the daily grind and throughout our entire lifetimes. Deadlines just help us to focus on and formulate a specific ending time for all the little things that fill our busy lives. So, how can deadlines work best for you?

Procrastination and deadlines are two completely different things. You might be one of those people (like myself) who wait until the very last minute to pay your bills, finish projects, or write articles about how to meet deadlines! The great thing about deadlines is that you can still be a procrastinator because it doesn’t matter how late you do things, just as long as you meet that final deadline. In fact, deadlines are a procrastinator’s best friend because once that deadline is set the procrastinator will at least know how long she has to engage in the actual procrastinating, yet the project will eventually get done because that deadline needs to be met. So, if you’re a chronic procrastinator, the best way to get things done is to set, follow, and respect your deadlines.

Having worked in publishing for many years, I’ve had the opportunity to be on both sides of the deadline fence. I learned early on the power of deadlines working in the magazine advertising world. One of my jobs was to make sure advertisements were sent on time in order for them to be placed in the magazine without causing a delay. While this sounds like a simple enough task it most often seemed like a struggle of biblical proportions to actually get the ad copy into my hands each and every month. This was because everyone involved from the advertiser to the designer to the sales rep had little respect for deadlines. Everyone always had that “what’s one more day” kind of attitude. I’m here to tell you that one more day can cost a magazine thousands of dollars, so meeting the deadline was always my number one concern. I can’t tell you how many times I was forced to place some nonsense PSA ad about the importance of cleaning your air filters in place of a paid ad because people couldn’t meet their deadlines. So, rather than continuing to fight, I came up with the “just-barely-warm-line” (not quite dead, but getting there) which was my own make-believe deadline I would give to advertisers. My faux-deadline was usually about two weeks before the real deadline and when clients invariably missed that I would put on my very best “I’ll call the printer and see what I can do since you’re such an important client” voice and I would usually see the ad the very next day…well ahead of the actual deadline. This made me happy, the client happy, and my publisher happy, so all was well.

My point is that you need to set your own faux-deadlines in order to get things done on time because putting things off “one more day” can affect both yourself and other people in ways that you are not even aware of. Even though you logically know your bills are due on the first of the month, if you set a deadline to pay them by the 25th of the month you will get into the habit of paying them by that date with several days buffer in case you forget or something unexpected happens. I get a lot of books at my local library and I always ended up bringing them back a day or two after their due date for no other reason than I was just too lazy to take them back on time. So, I started setting a faux-due-date two days ahead of time and writing that on my calendar. I still bring my books back two days after the faux-date, but they actually get there in time now and I no longer have to bring in a handful of change to pay for those pesky late fees.

You need to set deadlines for things that don’t have a specific end date in sight as well. Things like vacations you’d like to go on, rooms you’d like to paint, classes you’d like to take, books you’d like to write, or whatever else it is that you want to accomplish in life, but just never seem to find the time to complete. It’s easy to let these things go if you don’t formulate a specific plan and set a reasonable deadline for getting them done. While deadlines can seem overwhelming at times, looming over you like a watchful owl, they do make our lives more manageable, our time more organized, and our goals more attainable.

Tips for Embracing the Deadline:

  1. Learn to respect and care about the deadlines in your life.
  2. Write down your deadlines in order to create a tangible timeline and end goal. When you write things down they become more real.
  3. Give yourself a buffer by setting a faux-deadline to allow for unforeseen issues.
  4. Write down everything that needs to get done to reach your goal and set mini-deadlines.
  5. Set reasonable and attainable deadlines without stressing yourself out.
  6. If you miss a deadline, don’t beat yourself up or give up, just reset it and try again.
  7. Post your deadlines in a clearly visible spot by hanging a calendar or white board nearby.
  8. Establish a clearly defined beginning, middle, and end.
  9. Focus on one step at a time and keep telling yourself, “Rome wasn’t built in a day,” but it did have a deadline!
  10. Reward yourself along the way and revel in the completion of each and every deadline!