Monday, June 13, 2011

The Deadline Crunch Syndrome

What do you do when you are facing a deadline? Jump on the project right away? Procrastinate? Cry? All of the above?

I've been known to do a little of each. I also have a knack for dancing around a project in creative ways, such as feeling the sudden need to vacuum my keyboard, alphabetize the canned goods in my pantry, or polish the rear-view mirror in my car. It's funny how these things need to be done when a deadline looms, isn't it?

This "Deadline Crunch Syndrome" is something that frustrates me, for I prefer to be organized and on top of things. I hate when things are nagging at me and I'm feeling pressed, and much of it is due to my procrastination tactics. Having about had it up to here with my silly self in recent months, I've been paying closer attention to what helps me jump the deadline hurdles. Here are my findings:

1) Shut off the internet. It's way too tempting to hop over to Facebook or check your email, isn't it? I often find it best to close all internet windows. The online world will be there when I get back. As my seven year old nephew would say, "For real."

2) Minimize the interruption potential. It helps to turn the ringer off on the phone (cell and land line). I get any pressing items done before I sit down to write. Lunch? Check. Bills out to the mailbox? Check. Email to an editor? Check. 
                                                                                                                                      
3) Assemble necessary resources. I make sure pen, paper, files, books, and other sources are handy and within arm's reach.

4) Hit the desk equipped with appropriate refreshment. It's a given. I will get thirsty. And hungry, no matter what kind of meal I just had. My favorite beverage is slightly sweetened iced tea. Pretzels are nice too. Oh, and chocolate of course. Just in case you wanted to know.

5) Sow discipline. I like to encourage myself that I am building good habits by sowing self control and perseverance. I'm expecting to reap big in this department. :) 

6) Set small goals. Sometimes a project seems overwhelming, so I break it into segments. One page, seven hundred words, one chapter, feedback to three students...or whatever. It makes me feel like I am accomplishing something. It helps build confidence and the motivation to move forward.

7) Dangle the carrot. This ties in with number 6. If I get a certain amount done, then I allow myself a break, or check email, have some extra chocolate, or go buy a new Ford Mustang. Yeah, okay, so the latter happens if I get a really big book contract. Which, you know, could totally happen someday. (You are my friends - remember this and don't laugh too hard, for when you want to get a Ford Mustang I will back you up.)

8) Get input. Sometimes this means sending an email to a writing buddy and asking for their thoughts on a project. I'm also open to ideas, like the ones found in Laurie Pawlik-Kienlen's post, Five Tips for Getting Things Done Before the Deadline.

Do you have any deadlines looming? What helps you avoid the Deadline Crunch Syndrome? What's the craziest thing you ever did in your procrastination process?

Have a great week!

Blessings,
Karen

46 comments :

  1. What a great post. With deadlines I usually don't procrastinate. Unless I'm stuck. But still, I'll never alphabitize my cans! :)

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  2. All great suggestions, Karen. Not sure why it works that way but think that's probably why writers need deadlines, otherwise all those ways of not writing would take over! Needed the advice today as deadline looms.

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  3. Karen,
    I too, preach this doctrine, good advice. Too bad I don't practice what I preach. I procratinate. I work best under pressure, last minute and I crank it out. Chocolate, pretzels, yeah, that might help me stay planted in the seat.

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  4. Great post, Karen. I won't procrastinate on editor imposed deadlines, but I will on self-imposed ones. Why is that? Don't I realize that sending the queries/articles or updating my blog are must as important to making a living as getting the story turned in?

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  5. Laura,
    Thanks! I guess I've found myself a little stuck these past months, plus so many things going on that I don't know where to go first. Seems to be leveling out though. Must be the chocolate. :)

    Annie,
    I know, and I thought of you when writing this. Wondered if you were alphabetizing your canned goods too...I like deadlines, but sometimes things go a little haywire!

    Linda,
    I do and I don't, and some weeks are better than others. A lot depends on what else is going on in my life. We'll get there!

    Carol,
    I struggle with the self imposed deadlines the most, I think. This is a good point. I may do another post with all of your thoughts!

    Blessings,
    Karen

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  6. I need to dangle more carrots. Reward myself more. I like these reminders. My work is more productive when I go about it this way.
    ~ Wendy

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  7. Your timing is perfect. I'm filling my calendar with promotional events and working with an editor on an ebook. Feeling a little overwhelmed because I should be making lists. ...

    Taking time out to read your post has me rejuvenated. Thanks, Karen.

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  9. Great post, Karen. We writers can write a book on distractions that can cause deadlines to loom large. Best scenario is to avoid all distractions.

    I loved this post,and right now I have been following the no internet policy for the morning hours.

    Both of us will go together and buy the Ford Mustang. I will even help you choose the colour and you can help me choose mine :)

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  10. Always need drink and munchies nearby! And I'm on track to finish revisions before the end of June, as planned.

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  11. Wendy,
    Perhaps you should set your carrot system all over the house! :) I know it helps me be more productive, though I feel like a little kid!

    Joylene,
    Glad to be of service! Yes, I imagine you have a lot on your plate with your book coming out so soon! Congrats on that!

    Rachna,
    Ah, distractions, there are so many! As far as the Mustang goes, you are on! I'm leaning toward maybe a dark blue or that nice dark red. How about you?

    Alex,
    Yes, absolutely! Congrats on being on track! Maybe we'll commission you to help us with unfinished projects! :)

    Happy Monday,
    Karen

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  12. I don't have any deadlines looming at the moment, but I need to set some artificial ones, just to get myself moving. :) I love your suggestions here!

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  13. It depends. I'll jump on it sooner if there is a high probability of embarrassment if I fail; and if I'm excited about the project.

    If it's not terribly interesting or important, I procrastinate horribly.

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  14. This has been a real encouragement to me this week, with my very first 'deadline' fixed into my calendar now! Thanks for sharing your tips Karen.
    Blessings
    Dorothy :)

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  15. Talk about intentional! I love your collection of deadline-dealing-wisdom. Mine? Stay awake. Guess that's what happens when you retire :)

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  16. Sarah,
    Yes, the artificial ones can be just as important. And good for building our deadline stamina!

    Lydia,
    Yes, I have those various categories too. Oh my, we could write a book on this, couldn't we?

    Dorothy,
    I'm glad to help. :) And yes, you have a deadline, I heard - congrats on the BOOK CONTRACT! Hooray! Maybe I need to help you pick out a Mustang? :)

    Kathleen,
    LOL! There are days when I need that advice! :)

    Blessings,
    Karen

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  17. Well, I certainly don't cry, but I can be a terrible procrastinator. I have gotten much better though at organizing myself to jump in and get things done. Occasionally it means staying up later than I like. Your tips are fantastic.


    Lee
    Tossing It Out

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  18. He he I like this. And your number one is perfectly right - shut off the Internet - biggest distraction ever!
    Great post.

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  19. Very thorough, Karen. I'm a master at procrastinating. In fact, I could teach classes in how to do it and do it well. Sigh.

    The internet is a big distraction - you're right. It helps that I still write the columns out longhand, so even though I write from my second office (i.e., the coffee shop), I don't have a laptop along to side track me.

    I like #6. Breaking it down really does help, and usually if I just get started, I'm amazed how fast things get done.

    Thanks, friend. And hey - go for that Mustang!


    Waving and grinning,

    Rhonda

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  20. Karen,
    You could be my twin! I do all of those things too, and I hate to be behind. I prefer to be so organized but sometimes it happens when I can't!

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  21. I don't have any immediate deadlines, but yesterday I didn't do several things I was hoping to do.

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  22. So many distractions. *sob* All these things and more. I must be easily distracted.

    Btw, amigo. You've been tagged. You can choose to accept this challenge or not. Mwa ha ha ha *pushes shades up nose*

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  23. Hi Karen -

    I'm under a different type of deadline right now: getting ready for an August writers' conference. Having an accountability partner helps. A certain friend keeps me on my toes. :)

    Blessings,
    Susan

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  24. Lee,
    Thank you! Somehow I can't picture you crying...Yes, I know about working long days too. Not always fun but helps get it done.

    D.U.,
    Thanks! Glad you enjoyed it. Here's to shutting down the internet as necessary!

    Rhonda,
    Yes, let's do a class on it. Tomorrow. :P Okay so I'll pick you up in the Mustang so we can go tot he coffee shop, okay?

    Terri,
    I hear you! We're working on getting there, though, right? :)

    Paul,
    I'm finding myself in that same boat this week!

    Robyn,
    I've been tagged? Well, I guess I'll have to check it out! :)

    Susan,
    Yes, certain friends really are a big help, aren't they? :)

    Blessings,
    Karen

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  25. Karen,
    What a good post! I really do hope you get that Ford Mustang someday.

    I ran into an unexpected deadline crunch today, and I tried to keep plowing away without following your Rule #3 (on the importance of appropriate refreshment). Without a full belly and a properly caffeinated mind, I just couldn't get the project done as fast as I had hoped (but I did get it done . . . phew!).

    One trick I find helpful is to set a timer. When the timer is on, I am better about avoiding distractions (like checking my blog stats). The reward is that I get to goof off guilt-free after the timer goes off.

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  26. I'm happy to report that I follow all of your suggestions. I'm sorry to report that I still procrastinate! LOL I make every effort to focus and stay on task, but I do find that I push to the last second. The one thing that you mention that I don't do is keep snacks in my office. I'll give that a try; one less reason to leave my desk.

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  27. Oh, I have this 'deadline crunch syndrome' and I do all I can do effectively to delay getting to the work at hand. It jacks up the pressure...I call it the 'eleventh hour syndrome.' Lately I have been working on this and I have been implementing quite a few of the points you've mentioned. It helps to know I'm not alone in this...thanks for sharing. Will keep those tips in mind.

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  28. Great tips! I usually work quite well to deadlines - they motivate me!

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  29. I have self-imposed deadlines. Turning off the Internet is vital. Too many distractions. I do Fantasy Baseball and Fantasy Football and they can be huge time sucks.

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  30. Nihara,
    Thank you! Keep plowing through is sometimes the best advice - whether we feel like it or not. Welcome to the world of being a big person, right? :) Love the timer trick. Haven't done that in a while but it really helps!

    Lisa,
    LOL! Yes, me too; I'm off and on again but working to get better at it. I highly recommend the snacks. :)

    Joy,
    No, you are not alone! You are right, the pressure does increase, but this isn't always a bad thing. Love the name you used!

    Talli,
    Thanks! Deadlines are good and motivating, I just dawdle too much sometimes. :)

    Stephen,
    Yes, I agree. Best to ditch the internet for a time till projects are done!

    Have a great week,
    Karen

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  31. All great points Karen. When I was working deadlines were a staple to my job and I'm proud to say I never missed one.

    Now with writing it is different for me, I write for me with no deadlines. But I have already learned Baby Steps are the key. :)

    Sorry been sick.
    Jules @ Trying To Get Over The Rainbow

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  32. Ha! Well, I've always been a procrastinator. I think I like the adrenaline rush of rushing to get something done. However, I need to change that now because now I have a serious deadline and there's no way I want to mess it up.
    Great tips, Karen!

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  33. Sow discipline! Love it, and it's exactly what I need.

    I have a quilt block that is due that I keep 'forgetting' to get to. I seriously need discipline to get it done.

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  34. Jules,
    I agree - baby steps are very good! I keep reminding myself that. :) So sorry to hear you are sick. Feel better soon!!

    Jessica,
    Oh yes, no messing that up, that's for sure! Congrats on your contract! :D

    Eileen,
    Me too, and working on doing just that! Happy quilting!

    Blessings,
    Karen

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  35. As always, practical suggestions, and helpful.

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  36. Hi Karen .. just do it - and no carrots, no dangling, no internet - just do it!

    I must get my act into gear and just do it ...

    The deadline crunch .. will come creeping up to crunch away .. beat it to the line .. cheers Hilary

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  37. Karen,
    Thank you so much for these excellent tips. I've been in a sort-of self-imposed exile, and am just now emerging to see the light of day. It's been a difficult month with the "I don't have what it takes" foolishness prevailing.
    Anyway, I'm coming back and your tips here plus the next post with links are a true Godsend. Thank you so much for your faithfulness and sharing your gifts with us.
    Blessings to you,
    Susan

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  38. Warren,
    Thanks so much. I value your comments and praise!

    Oh yes, just do it! That's a good one to remember and follow through with! Thanks!

    Susan,
    So glad to hear that these posts are a blessing. Now, listen here; you DO have what it takes. This I know. :)

    Blessings,
    Karen

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  39. Love these! i need to post them up by my laptop when a deadline looms...

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  40. Hi Karen, all great suggestions....and I've tried to do all of them. Notice the word "tried"! I'm going away for my own little writing retreat, 3-4 days all by myself...no interruptions and/or procrastinations to continually stop me. I plan on doing tons of writing! Thanks for the great tips!

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  41. Lydia,
    Feel free to use whatever you need. Cheering you on! :)

    Becky,
    Hope you have a wonderful retreat! Wishing you much peace and quiet and writing success!

    Blessings,
    Karen

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  42. Great tips! I needed them. Have had a busy week with two deadlines hanging over my head - I think sometimes being a mom involved prioritizing three things at the same time that all seem like top numero uno priorities.

    Have a great weekend!

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  43. Much needed advice. I'm a big fan of #7.

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  44. Tyrean,
    Glad they are helpful. I know, that's the hard part, when several things need to be made top of the list!

    Alisa,
    Thanks so much! Me too, especially the Mustang part. :)

    Blessings,
    Karen

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  45. I once avoided plowing toward a deadline by cleaning the grout between my bathroom floor tiles. With a toothbrush. I'm thrilled to learn I'm not the only one who sometimes jumps to a mundane chore when a deadline looms ahead.

    Sound tips. Thank you for the advice!

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  46. Janette,
    You are not alone! It's amazing to think of all the things that pop up before a deadline. :) Maybe we should start a club!
    Blessings,
    Karen

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Thanks for stopping by! I appreciate your input. Have a blessed day!