Why are they called deadlines? Because if you don’t get to them in time, something dies. That something may or may not be you. It may be your career, your reputation, your burgeoning relationship of sweet romantic passion. It may also be you. Whatever. Whether in business, leisure, or your gooey sham of a love life, deadlines are not negotiable. They don’t go away if you don’t look at them. And if you miss one, no amount of DRABC is going to help you. Here are five ways to walk the line:
1. Know thy enemy. Deadlines are like ninjas – you often don’t recognise them until it’s too late. Boss asking if you think you can have that report done by Friday? Careers advisor mulling over the due date for job applications? Hungry for a hard-boiled egg? Someone always wants something and they want it now. Or at least by a fixed date and time, in a fixed place. That’s the essence of a deadline. So you better get your typing/intervieweeing/tama-cracking on, and fast.
2. Pay attention. What are you thinking about if a ninja is attacking you? Not your favourite TV show, or the Higgs Boson, or what’s for dinner tonight. If you don’t give your deadlines the same existential focus, the ninjas will get you.
3. No luxuries. Most people spend their time on things like hobbies, social lives, “quiet time”, and so on. Don’t be most people. Get that urgent thing done now and let nothing stand in your way. You know who has lots of quiet time? The ones the ninjas got.
4. Triage. But what if you have multiple urgent things? Let’s say you’re applying for a summer internship at a prestigious law firm. Applications close in 5 weeks. Lots of time, correct? Correct – if all you’re doing is writing a cover letter. But you also have to
- Research the firm;
- Update (or write) your CV;
- Withstand a barrage of existential questions like “What is your greatest achievement?”, “Explain the implications of our recent merger” and “if you were a ninja, what factors make you suitable for this firm?” (Hint: not good grades and a refereed CV);
- Procure a copy of your academic transcript from your university;
- Doctor the aforementioned transcript’s results; and
- Repeat for the ten other firms whose applications close on the same day.
So you need to master the art of triage: identifying a priority order for all your deadlines, and all the tasks required to complete each one. In the above example, it might be that you place those 11 firms in order of “Least Evil to Work For” then work down the list. Or you might handle all cover letters first to maximise the miracle of Copy-Paste. If you’ve tracked your deadlines well, you’ll know what has to come first.
5. Learn to write (and think) fast. Self-explanatory, really, and it helps almost every sort of deadline. See this post for some pointers.
In brief: Just don’t die.