Blogger: Wendy Lawton
As I may have mentioned, ahem, I’m on a productivity kick. Last week I listened to a great Craig Groeschel Time Management podcast, It’s About Time. The podcast is actually meant for leaders but there’s much wisdom for writers as well.
One of the concepts Groeschel practices is setting deadlines. For writers who are contracted that seems like a no brainer. The deadline is written right in the contract and a writer understands the real meaning of the term, deadline. It’s a line you dare not cross lest you find your career utterly dead, right?
There’s nothing like a deadline to encourage us to work at maximum speed and efficiency. When I wrote daily I used to say that a comfortable writing speed for me was 2500 first draft words a day. The funny thing was that the closer I got to deadline the more impressive the word count. As the deadline approached I could easily do 5000 words a day with gusts up to 7500.
So what is it about a deadline? You know that if you have a trip coming up and a task list a mile long, that should have taken a week or longer, you will somehow get it all done in two days. Why? Because of the hard and fast deadline.
What does a deadline do?
- It gives a “maybe someday” project a finite ending date.
- It emphasizes the priority of the project.
- It lets you divide up the work into bite-sized pieces and fit it into a finite timeframe.
- It solves the perfectionist’s problem on never being able to put a fork in it. When the deadline comes, the project is done. No more fussing.
So what do you do if you have a project with no deadlines? You set an artificial deadline. You may need to have someone hold you accountable for that deadline but a hard and fast deadline is a must. Here are some tips for learning how to respect an artificial deadline:
- Practice. “I need to have this kitchen sparkling by 7:30 tonight. That’s the time I promised the kids we’d play a board game.” Trust me. The kids will be in the kitchen with the game box a full five minutes before the deadline. That gives you an artificial deadline and accountability.
- Schedule a reward at the end— something that can’t easily be changed. “I’m going to have this book done by the Monday before Thanksgiving so I have one day to clean the house, one day to cook and one day to sit and do nothing.” Or maybe schedule a facial and massage for the day after the deadline at that posh spa that takes more than three months to book and charges you full price if you try to reschedule. That’s incentive!
- Use a built-in block of time. “I have a six month sabbatical coming up next year. I’m going to finish the novel in the first five months and brainstorm the next one in the month that follows.”
Here’s your challenge: Which project of yours needs an artificial deadline and how will you make it stick?
Got any other deadline tips for us? Please share.