Taking the Bite out of Deadlines

time concept in business with an alarm clock and businesswomanIf variety is the spice of the writing life – and I believe it is – then deadlines are a staple. As a financial writer, I get to work on all sorts of projects, ranging from white papers and marketing collateral to regulatory shareholder reports and web-based articles. Every one of them has a deadline. My clients depend on me to deliver well-written copy by specific due dates. A delay on my part can have a profound effect on their schedules.

So I take deadlines very seriously. Some of my clients might even tell you I am fanatical about them. That’s why years ago I set up a structure to help me manage and meet my deadlines.

Not that I can control everything. Outside events often have an impact on how quickly or efficiently my work is completed. A key contact is unexpectedly out of the office, for example. Or, there is a glitch in a performance reporting system that delays attribution. Though such impediments can be anxiety-producing, I focus on managing what I can and thereby keep things moving forward.

Here are some of the staples of my “deadline survival system.”

  • A desktop calendar on which I list every deadline for every project. I can see at a glance where I stand.
  • Project folders that put critical information at my fingertips. When time is of the essence, I have easy access to process and style guidelines, important data and the phone numbers of key contacts.
  • A staging area where I can sort through notes, research, attribution, etc. Because these things are close at hand, I can facilitate the creation of outlines and rough drafts.
  • Custom email templates, laboriously created, but which now allow me to expedite requests for information and submit drafts for review.
  • Prep work, especially for quarterly commentaries and shareholder reports. By conducting advance research and writing boilerplate copy, I can get a head start on these projects before period end.

Over the years, I have found that these tools and tactics, combined with discipline, have helped me survive, thrive, and serve my clients well. And that’s a good measurement of success.

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