As I enter my final two weeks of my graduate program, there has been one word hanging in the back of my mind casting a shadow on everything I come in contact with–finals. More specifically, the deadline associated with those finals. Honestly, it shouldn’t be anything new. I have been working on deadlines for assignments each week. I know many of you have been working on regular deadlines for weeks, months, even years now. Deadlines are an unspoken expectation every writer, among others, face on a regular basis.
But what do we do with those deadlines?
Write or flight
The way I see it, we are faced with two options. We either get to work and meet the deadline, or we turn tail and run. Running would likely lead to a whole different set of issues and problems which we have neither the time nor space to cover here. For the sake of this argument, we will take for granted that we choose to meet the deadline regardless of how much caffeine is called for.
But how do you handle the stress of the approaching deadline? I know it is inevitable that there is at least one–possibly more, but certainly not several–out there who have meticulously planned for the arrival of this deadline. They have plotted their time to the nearest fraction of a second allowing for not only the performance of adequate research but also the completion of multiple drafts including subsequent editing between each. They have performed a specific ritual to ensure the presentation of an award winning draft before the looming deadline.
Okay, members of that prestigious group are welcome to stay along for the ride or check out now, because the other 98% are getting ready to lay all our cards on the table.
For everyone still here, I imagine we fall into the other category whether we openly admit it or not. We may have set out with good intentions. We’ve done the research though it may be scattered unorganized on our desk. We may have even begun a draft–hey, one or two sentences is still the beginning of a draft.
But then other projects have slipped to the forefront. Life happened to pull us away for the briefest of moments that suddenly morphed into weeks. Now, the alert in our phone just went off, we just flipped the page on our calendar, we just opened that email from the boss. The deadline is fast approaching and Superman may even be hard pressed to make this miracle happen.
Then it happens. You feel it welling up inside you. It begins in the pit of your stomach. The small seed of dread, of panic. You’ve pushed it too far this time. What’s going to happen? You’re not sure you can wordsmith your way out of this one.
The one thing you do know. You are not a quitter. You won’t go down without a fight. And what a valiant fight it will be. The adrenaline kicks in, but it won’t be enough. You decide to supercharge it with a month’s worth of your caffeine beverage of choice. There will be plenty of time to rest once the deadline is passed.
Your fingers flow faster than the keyboard can register the keystrokes. Your brain cells are firing at such a rate, your head feels like a nuclear reactor. Sweat glistens the sides of your face. You dare not stop to clean your glasses or mop your brow. This progress must not be stopped. The words are flowing at a rate of epic proportions.
And just as quickly, the flow stops. You find yourself inserting the last period. Making the final correction. You check your watch. You doublecheck your calendar. You blink. Check your watch again. It has happened. You made the deadline. Your hands won’t stop shaking. Your eyes can’t stop blinking. You are bouncing in your desk chair like it is some bouncy ball. But you made the deadline.
The Temptation of Overconfidence
Now there is a new problem. You can’t sleep because the caffeine and adrenaline have not subsided. You are left with your own thoughts. And your own thoughts can be a dangerous thing. Suddenly, you are thinking this process wasn’t so bad. You had plenty of time all along. You probably could have put it off another day and still churned it out in plenty of time. As a matter of fact, you might just do that next time. The pressure of these deadlines seems to bring out the best in you. So you’ll just start using it. Capitalize on the stress. Make the deadline work for you for a change.
I hope you are seeing the red flags now.
You may even be laughing, but you know we have all been there at some point. All of us have entertained that ridiculous thought at some point.
The question I want to pose though is how many of you have changed your routines to better meet the deadlines and how many are still living by the seat of your pants trying to make the pressure of the deadline work for you?
Seriously, I want to know. The problem is real. How do you feel about deadlines? How do you respond to them? What methods do you use to meet them? Leave your comments below or through social media.
Don’t let your deadlines sweep you into the Chaos.