“Hey Ollin. I have this deadline to meet for my novel/article/dissertation/project. Any tips on how I can make that deadline?”
Ah yes. The deadline. The allusive, the intimidating, the stressful, the pressure-filled, bain-of-every-working-persons-existence DEADLINE.
Over the years I’ve been asked by several folks about how I meet my writing deadlines and I guess it’s about time I offer my tips on the issue.
9 Sure-Fire Ways To Meet Your Next Writing Deadline
How do you meet your next writing deadline you ask?
Well, here are 9 ways you can do it:
1. Whatever You Do, Don’t Watch Downtown Abbey
Seriously. Do not watch that show. It is incredibly addicting. I just went through all three seasons and my god is this a show that will cause you to miss your deadline for SURE.
While we’re at it, stay away from any television show that features English nobility sitting around a table talking about politics, secretly lusting after one another, and then dying unexpectedly for no good reason.
2. Seriously: I’m Not Kidding. Don’t Watch Downtown Abbey
If you’ve never heard of the show, I know you were about to Google “Downtown Abbey” to find out what I’m talking about.
DON’T DO IT.
And if you’ve been hearing everybody talk about the show and haven’t gotten around to watching it, I’m guessing you were probably about to go to Amazon.com and order all three season now.
PLEASE. STOP IT, NOW.
You will only find yourself captivated by a unique period drama that squeezes out its delectable storyline deliberately and succulently like sweet milk out of the teat of Venus the Greek goddess of love… erh… I mean…. the point is that you will not get any work done.
3. Start Right Away
As soon as you know when your deadline is, start on the work right away. Why wait?
Get started right away so that by the time you get close to the deadline you’re either close to done, or you’re already done and you can relax and take a nice stroll to the finish line.
4. Break It Down By The Hour
If you’re having trouble meeting your deadline, this might work for you:
Get yourself a stopwatch (if you have smart phone you probably have an app for that) and place it next to your laptop or computer. Then, set the timer and see how many words you can get finished in under an hour.
Then look the amount of words you need to write by the end of the week in order to meet your deadline. How many words (or pages, or chapters) do you need to get done by the end of the week to meet your final deadline?
Then do the math: at the hourly rate you are going, how many words do you need to crank out every hour in order to meet your word deadline by the end of the week?
Make a note of this as your X words/hr amount.
Once you figured out that X words/hr amount, check in with yourself at the end of every hour and see if you’ve met your hourly goal.
If you haven’t, ask yourself what’s the problem: are you getting too distracted? Are you working inefficiently? Were you goofing off and not getting work done? Are you too tired and need to take a power nap to re-energize? Can you not concentrate because you are starving and haven’t had lunch?
If you break down the work on an hourly basis it is much easier to see what is holding you back from getting the work done on time: and it will also reveal to you how you can expedite the writing process in order to get more work done.
This simple approach will cause you to focus more on the work at hand and it might even give you the happy bonus of making you feel exhilarated–like you’re trying to win a race!
5. Make It A Game
When I was applying to colleges in High School, I remember being really stressed out and afraid that I wouldn’t get into any of the universities I applied to.
This was until my brilliant mother suggested I try a different approach:
She said that instead of treating the college application process as if my future was on the line (which it kinda was) I should treat it as if it was a game:
I should just see how many colleges I could get into, not because it meant more opportunities for my future, but just to see how many colleges I could actually get into. You know. Just for fun! (Kinda like College Pokemon sans the awkward animation and bad dubbing.)
And what do you know: my mother’s approach worked! I was a whole lot less stressed applying to colleges after I pretended that the whole thing was a game. The pressure was removed and I was able to actually do better on my college applications than when I was forcing myself to keep thinking that my whole entire future was on the line.
Sometimes our deadlines are hard to meet because they terrify us. There is so much riding on these deadlines and the pressure and stress can really overwhelm us and actually prevent us from making the deadline.
So, sometimes, even though the deadline is no game, it’s best to pretend that it is a game just so we can get everything done on time.
Again: this may seem straightforward, but if you have many deadlines to meet, you really have to sit down and see which one of these deadlines is the most important to you.
If you see that it is impossible that all the deadlines will be met on time, then you have to get real with yourself: which deadline is the most important to you and your career?
The most important deadline should be addressed first.
Always get to the most important deadlines first. The least important deadlines can wait for now.
Minimize the time you spend on tasks that do not have deadlines.
For example: checking your e-mail.
Don’t reply to e-mails unless they require your direct response.
I used to reply to every single e-mail I got, but this is a courtesy I simply cannot afford anymore. And if you have serious deadlines to meet in your life, and you are having trouble meeting them, then I’m afraid this is a courtesy you cannot afford anymore either.
In conclusion: to help you meet your deadline, minimize tasks that do not require a strict deadline (like answering every single e-mail you get in your e-mail box.)
8. Affirm To Yourself That You’ve Already Met The Deadline
I know this sounds crazy, but if you simply imagine that the deadline has already been met, and that that work is already completed and done on time, you will be able to ease into the work a whole lot better.
This will not guarantee that your deadline gets met–of course not–but what it does do is that it infuses you with a confidence that will allow you to worry less about meeting the deadline and will allow you instead to focus all your energy on just meeting the deadline.
And that is where all your energy should be after all: on doing the work and not worrying that the work might not get done on time.
9. Don’t Kill Yourself For Not Meeting Your Deadline
You’re a human being and sometimes humans miss deadlines.
I’ll confess that this past year I didn’t meet my own novel writing deadline (although I had met it the previous two years). Granted, it had to do with circumstances outside of my personal control, but still, it kinda sucked to not be able to meet my deadline.
So even I, Mr. Writing Guru over here, misses deadlines.
But these things happen. It’s no big deal, really. There will be lots of other deadlines to meet, they’ll keep coming, and so if you don’t meet this one, you will certainly meet the others.
In the end, you have to remember that deadlines are just there to help you get the work done and as long as the work is getting done, then that’s what matters the most.
So, as long as you get the work done and don’t disrespect the Earl of Grantham by sleeping with one of his daughters, you’re golden.
much “camera reveals a dead body and then pans to the left… Roll credits…”
Today’s Courage Exercise
If you haven’t met a deadline recently, forgive yourself, and then try a meeting your next deadline by utilizing the tips I’ve shared with you today.
Then, recall that deadlines are just there to help you get the work done. So as long as you’re doing the work, that is what is most important.
>>> Blog update: I will be taking a brief hiatus from the blog for the rest of the month of April, but I will be returning with new posts on May 6, 2013. In the meantime, I’ll be rolling out some of C2C’s classic posts for your enjoyment!
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