How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Deadlines

“I love deadlines. I love the whooshing noise they make as they go by.” — Douglas Adams

As much as I adore Mr. Adams, work ethic was drilled into my skull at a very early age, and the thought of missing a deadline fills me with the sort of dread that perhaps can only be achieved by an earnest, Midwestern Catholic-raised boy like me.

My solution is simple. I overestimate. It’s an old customer service trick I picked up back during my compulsory training while working for subscription services at a theater company. “Under-promise, over-deliver”. So if I think it will take a month, I tell an editor six weeks. Then, when they get it two weeks early, they’re happy. I’m not lying, or trying to fool anyone, you understand. I’ve told every editor I’ve ever worked with that I always overestimate. Do they forget? Do they not believe me? I have no idea.

But what about the deadlines I don’t have control over? When someone tells me they need it next week, no matter what? This is a bit trickier, and depends on how well I know the person. I’ve found that 75% of the time, there is room for negotiation in these situations. But there’s also times when the deadline really is that tight, and that’s when I need to just buckle down, toss out anything unessential, and power through. I really try to not make that the norm, though.