5 Things Deadlines

By Nicholas Nesbitt

Nicholas Nesbitt is a Johannesburg based creative specialising in Illustration, Digital Design and Sound Design. These are some of his latest illustrated ramblings. Enjoy :)

1. Make a list

Deadlines are anxiety provoking and it’s sometimes hard to know where to begin. One way of focusing on the task at hand is by clearing away those distractions and prioritising.

Sit down, turn off your phone, log off the internet and, with a cup of tea, make a glorious list.

Let this list be a map for your project. As the project develops, slash those items off the list you have conquered. There is nothing more satisfying than drawing a line through a task you have just completed. As your list gets smaller, so to will the dread.

2. Chopping up an elephant

So you have a list and you know the scope of the job…it’s big and scary. Do you start at the top and work your way down? This is a dilemma I always face. Why not take a different angle?

Try to break the job up into bite size chunks. Identify sections that require creative input and let those simmer in your head. Other parts of the job that feel more like slog work…tackle them first. Just put your head down and do it. That way, when creativity strikes you have already laid down the ground work.

Often, 60% of the task is done once you get the boring stuff out the way first. And with all the other bite size bits left, you’ll know what to do to get it done.

3. Procrastination gremlin

The procrastination gremlin is real. He will trick you into cleaning your flat and watching 10 seasons of Friends, knowing very well that you have an important deadline looming.

That being said, I do believe a bit of light procrastination with our gremlin friend can often be rewarding, because he sometimes takes you on interesting creative tangents. Some might call this serendipity.

Unfortunately when you are on a deadline, the gremlin is your worst enemy. Grab him and lock him in a box. Set yourself strict work times and only let that gremlin out after you have accomplished the day’s work. That way he becomes more like a Mogwai than a gremlin. Remember never feed him after midnight.

4. Say no or seek help

If the deadline is really ridiculous its ok to say no and try re-negotiate something more realistic. It’s better to clear the air with deadline decisions early in the process. Don’t wait till the last my-dog-ate-my-homework minute. It’s unprofessional to give excuses. Nobody cares why the job is late, only that it is late. Rather be honest with your client and work together to make a plan to achieve the shared goal.

You should never over promise, but if for some reason you have bitten off more than you can chew, it’s time to seek help. If you have a support structure in the form of a team, then delegate tasks that can be done by others. Don’t be scared to seek help from friends and colleagues. Sometimes their insight is all you need to crack the code. Asking for help helps you get things done and reach your deadline.

5. Never miss a deadline

You can’t afford to miss any deadlines as a creative. This is the truth: your reputation lives or dies by handing in your work on time, that’s why deadlines are so important.

Deadlines should be seen as a celebration of a project completed. Without deadlines, we tend to meander and mosey and don’t get anything done.

After you’ve achieved a deadline, celebrate. Pat yourself on the back, and feel good about what you have achieved. All those late nights and moments of genius are behind you and you have something to show for all the hard work.

Some of us will never be entirely happy with the final product, but remember that nothing is perfect, but completing something and finishing a task is honourable.

Till the next deadline :)

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