I began my career as a reporter on a daily newspaper. That meant that I had a deadline at 11 a.m. every day. Every single day. Six days a week. If I missed too many deadlines I would get fired. Meeting or missing a deadline was, quite literally, the difference between eating and not eating.
I made my deadlines, all my deadlines — or I had a very, very good excuse why I didn’t.
Then things changed. I got a new job. I became a mom. I opened a business. And I found that meeting deadlines had become more complicated. Well, the way to meet them didn’t become more complicated — the tasks and responsibilities did.
I still pride myself on being good at meeting deadlines. I also know that sometimes, no matter how hard we try, the deadline comes…and it goes. In fact, this spring and summer have just been one missed deadline after another.
I created a very ambitious schedule for myself. I want to start some brand new online courses on self-publishing. I needed a new website. And as soon as these projects were done, I would put out a newsletter announcing them.
I started planning in mid-March and set June 1 as the deadline for my first online course to premier. You’ve haven’t seen it yet, have you?
One of my deadlines did get met: my website. And right here I want to thank my web designer Lisa Snyder of Silver Hoop Edge, my graphic artist Eric Labacz of Eric Labacz Designs and my marketing experts Noelle Stary and Ryan Gallagher of 20 Lemons Marketing for all of their help in getting the new website up and running. I hope you will check it out.
But just because I missed a deadline or two doesn’t mean I have given up on the project. In fact, I’m completing one of my deadlines today.
I know as writers many of you have missed deadline after deadline, whether set for you by yourself or by an editor or publisher. So here are a few helpful tips to get you back on track. A missed deadline doesn’t mean you should drop the project.
Keep a weekly to-do list. I know some time management experts say to-do lists don’t work. But for me, they are essential. And I think in today’s busy world if we don’t have a list of tasks that need to be done, we just won’t remember them. So keep a list and keep it handy. There is nothing so satisfying as crossing a completed project off that list.
Break your tasks into units that can be completed in a day or a week. “Write a book” is not a task. It’s a goal. So break it into easily digested bites: “Organize outline.” “Write chapter one.” “Write 10 pages.” “Develop a character.” At the end of the week, when you cross that task off, you are that much closer to writing your book.
Make sure your goals are reasonable. How much time does it take really take you to write ten pages? Of course, there are days when the writing comes easily and days when it does not. Keep track for a week or two. Then you can set an average amount of time aside each week to accomplish your writing task.
Emergencies Happen. Don’t beat yourself up if you don’t get everything done on your task list each week. Emergencies, both large and small, do happen. Don’t let missing a deadline one week throw you off. Just put that task back on the list and keep working.
There is a difference between the occasional hectic week and consistently avoiding one task on your list. If you have a task that remains on your list for several weeks and you never seem to get to it, ask yourself why. What is holding you back?
Karen Miller is founder and CEO of Open Door Publications, an independent publishing company. For more information, visit www.opendoorpublications.com