Here’s a truth about me: I’ve never missed a writing or work deadline. Not once. And only one time in my ten-plus year career as a solopreneur have I asked for a work extension — it was only for three days and I could have made it without the cushion, but I knew they weren’t going to look at it over the weekend, so I made the request.
Knowing I’ve never missed a deadline helps me immensely, especially when I’m up against a tight one and I start to question whether or not I’m going to make it this time, which was what was happening towards the end of September as I raced towards my October 1 deadline of turning in my manuscript for Doable.
As people checked in on my progress, I’d nervously laugh and answer, “I don’t know if it’s going to happen, and if I do get it finished in time, it’s not going to be pretty.” I’d written books under extraordinary circumstances before, including wrapping up the first of The Real Deal books while nursing a newborn back in 2004, but September of this year was especially hairy. I had just moved to Amsterdam, was living in a temporary (read: soul-less, tiny, depressing) apartment, I was homeschooling my son for the first time ever, said son was not happy about the move, homeschooling, or any of it, I was mourning the loss of my dog (muse) Baxter, I didn’t have my support network on the ground, and I was just all around disoriented and struggling with the transition.
But I knew I wanted to hit that deadline. And not just hit it by turning something in…I wanted to deliver a solid manuscript that was in great shape and that I was proud of. So, I did.
Here are some of the strategies I used to keep me moving forward even though it seemed like the odds were definitely not ever in my favor. I hope they work for you too the next time you’re up against the wire and you’re worried about hitting your deadline:
Don’t panic: Talk about a complete waste of energy! Panic does nothing useful in situations like this. In fact, it makes it less likely that we’ll hit our target. Panic may be a normal and natural response to what’s happening, but it is simply not productive. So notice the panic, acknowledge it (oh yes, YOU again!), and ask it to move along….there’s nothing to see here.
Trust in your ability to get it done: When you’re moving ahead full-throttle in an attempt to complete something that feels impossible, blind trust and faith in who you are is a good thing. Believe in yourself. You’ve done this before. You’ve got this.
Find ways to make the work enjoyable: However you can eke pleasure into your work process — getting productive at your favorite coffee shop or breaking work sessions up with reality TV breaks or doing what needs to be done while simultaneously reclining on a chaise in your bathrobe and cozy slippers and enjoying a glass of wine — do it. Be indulgent. Eat chocolate if need be.
Two words – self care: Self-care is perhaps never more important than when you’re stressed and swamped. It can help with clarity and creativity, not to mention good old fashioned mental and emotional health. So though the urge to skip self-care (exercise, naps, down-time, massages, meditation, whatever) can be strong when time is a very limited resource, don’t do it. Twenty to thirty minutes per day of self-care is worth hours of productivity.
Know it will pass: Just like allergy season or the flu or dealing with the breakup of a relationship, remember that the way you feel right now is not the way you’re always going to feel. And things will not always be this way. What you’re going through is a moment in time, a period of your life. And then you’ll move onto something else.