If you have trouble meeting deadlines, unfortunately you’re reinforcing a stereotype that I loathe: “Creative people are flaky.”
That statement gets my blood boiling a bit, but I do understand where the sentiment comes from.
For professional writers, distractions are often useful in order to ultimately make insightful connections. The line that separates work and goof-off time can get blurred.
And having frustrating experiences with writers who are “not reliable in performance or behavior” perpetuates the flaky stereotype.
But who benefits from that belief?
Meeting deadlines crushes stereotypes
“I’m not creative, but I’m responsible.”
Those who think they’re not creative thrive off of the division of creativity and responsibility.
It gives them a reason to feel superior and boast about their follow-through skills that greatly serve work teams.
A creative person who demonstrates responsibility is a threat to those people, because responsible creative people drive healthy competition.
If a creative person is also responsible, a non-creative person has to bring something else of value to the table in order to compete.
Stepping up your game when you’re a writer at work forces everyone else to step up their game as well.
5 unconventional ways to meet deadlines
To make sure your combinatory play doesn’t derail your workday, you need to decide how you want to behave as a creative professional.
But who ever said meeting deadlines means you have to sacrifice your existing writing habits?
Here are five unconventional ways to be responsible in an unconventional environment.
1. Schedule free time during the day
Rewarding yourself at the end of the day with something you’d like to do after you finish your work is a lovely thought.
But sometimes the end of the day feels too far away and instead of working productively to get to that fun activity, you actually end up procrastinating.
So, schedule your reward during the day in addition to your breaks for meals, snacks, and popping outside to get fresh air.
When you get back to work, you won’t daydream about engaging your extracurricular interests.
You’ll probably need to work longer hours, but that’s the trade-off for the instant gratification of having time for yourself embedded in your workday.
Try this tip for meeting deadlines when you don’t have urgent tasks. Knowing you occasionally have this freedom might help motivate you at crunch time.
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2. Work on your laptop at 50% battery (without access to your charger)
Now let’s jump into a productivity hack for when you do have an urgent deadline.
Go to a coffee shop or library knowing that you only have a 50% battery life on your laptop, and don’t bring your charger.
If your coworker, client, or boss is waiting to receive your work and your battery percentage is steadily decreasing, ignoring your deadline just isn’t an option.
You can also use this technique at home or in an office, if you have a room without an outlet.
I’ll write on my balcony and only return inside to plug in my computer after I’ve finished my top priority tasks.
3. Hide your phone strategically when you have a deadline to meet
Potential distractions be damned, I still keep my phone within arm’s reach when I work … which is actually why I find this tip effective.
If I remove my phone only on select occasions, it’s a signal to my brain to concentrate.
Think you can’t meet deadlines?
Here’s how this became part of my routine …
I noticed that if I got a notification on my phone around the same time I was supposed to leave to go somewhere, the innocent act of looking at the screen could put me behind schedule.
It’s easy to get caught up in an email or text message and lose five, 10, or 15 minutes responding to the note.
To avoid running late, I started putting my phone away in my purse about 15 minutes before I have to be out the door — and I don’t look at it, even if it tries to charm me with a cute beep noise.
Then I decided to adapt the concept for meeting deadlines at work, because it’s distressing when you miss out on prime productive time because you were looking at something less important.
When you know you’ll be disappointed if you don’t finish a task in a timely manner, put your phone in a drawer or another room.
4. Let your ideas marinate in your mind
It’s time to get organized.
Taking note of your upcoming responsibilities helps you mentally prepare for them before you sit down to work.
Letting my writing ideas “marinate in my mind” is almost like an item I could put on my daily to-do list.
How do you ensure that you meet deadlines?
Make creativity a part of your lifestyle, so it’s easier to be creative on demand once you’re on the clock and tapping your fingers on the keyboard.
And don’t rule out thinking about your assignment before you go to sleep or when you get ready for your day in the morning.
Those can be perfect opportunities to set yourself up for problem-solving success at a later time.
5. Pinpoint the root of not meeting deadlines
I’m always fine-tuning my daily routines for what currently suits me, and I noticed early on in this practice that tasks tend to take longer than I think they will.
Whether it’s eating breakfast or writing a draft, I underestimate how much time I need, which causes me to run behind schedule. (See tip #3 above.)
My awareness of this bad habit has helped me make changes to avoid negative consequences.
Now I give myself twice as much time as I think I need.
There’s no downside to that — I either finish earlier and can move on to something else, or I stay on track. The worst case scenario is that I still need more time, but since I started early, I’m not as behind as I would have been.
It sounds so simple, but I still haven’t perfected it since I was a long-time “running late” person.
The more I work on it, the easier it gets … and new, more beneficial habits replace the old ones.
Meet the deadline, on time, every time
We know making a living as a writer isn’t easy.
Finding new clients, managing your business as a business, positioning yourself to rise above feast-and-famine cycles …
And one thing’s for certain: Flakiness will hold you back.
Meeting deadlines like a pro
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