Tight deadlines are typical in the graphic design industry. I’ve experienced a few time critical holiday deadlines myself… ho, ho, ho…
In an effort to minimize the stress level, I have developed a few strategies to help any project run a bit more smoothly.
Map. Keeping progress visible is key for me, and looming deadlines can be a powerful motivator. I like to use a large project erase board, or spreadsheet, breaking the project down by deliverable (perhaps using spreadsheet tabs). Spreadsheets can do double duty as a client status report.
Delegate. If you think you need help in a specific area, hesitation will work against you. The longer you wait to get someone else involved in a project, the more difficult (and time-consuming) it will be to get them up to speed. I always try to line up my resources before tackling the project.
Communicate. I use a custom FileMaker database to track project scope, and Evernote to jot down quick thoughts or details (organized by notebook of course). However, when the details become unwieldy, I reorganize and shift project notes to Basecamp. Project management plus collaboration is helpful, along with the ability to assign and drag-organize todos, involving clients as necessary. Constant communication can help you stay abreast of any changes and keep correspondence relevant.
Report. If the client isn’t involved in a Basecamp project or some other collaborative mechanism, weekly status reports will be appreciated and help keep everyone on the same page.
Relax (if possible) and do the work. When you stay focused and free of distraction, the job will get done. I’ve found that even projects with the tightest of deadlines get accomplished.
Sorting out details and keeping them organized in a manageable system can help you remain free from distraction and focused on project completion. A successfully completed project means I can truly enjoy my holiday, even if it is a few days late :)