Two weeks ago we discussed strategies for dealing with deadlines that are far in the
future. Today we’ll talk about the deadlines that suddenly are on top of us. Do you stay up all night to finish something? Go to bed at ten but set the alarm for three in the morning? Make lists? What about when short-term deadlines stack up like planes waiting to land?
Liz: Oh, boy. This happens to me all the time. I don’t usually stay up all night because I’m way too cranky the next day, but I have been known to have marathon sessions in the evenings or on weekends to get a bunch of things done. I try really hard to be a better planner, but alas, it doesn’t always work!
Jessie: I make lists. I make one at the beginning of the month for projects that require a bit of time and one each day for more immediate tasks. I like seeing what needs doing laid out in black and white. Getting things on paper gets them out of my head and makes room for me to be more creative about how to accomplish what’s on the list.
Julie: I am a big fan of the Franklin Covey system. (Would that it was an app, or a Google plug-in, but I digress.) I have big deadlines (book #2 due to my editor, book #1 proofs need to be read, a grant application for work, etc.), middle sized deadlines (birthdays and other occasions that require attention, social media updates) and small deadlines that require some attention (parking permit updates, bills that need to be paid, subscriptions that need to be updated). I have lists of them all, and am trying to get in the habit of choosing what I can do that day, and prioritizing.
Sherry: I put reminders in my phone for short term deadlines and set alarms to help remind me when something is due. My husband and I also share a calendar which helps keep track of events we are both involved in.
Barb: I have a to-do list that I update frequently, sometimes weekly, sometimes every few days, sometimes every few weeks. My to-do list has categories –MCM (Maine Clambake Mysteries), LBB (Level Best Books), WCA (Wicked Cozy Authors), MCW (Maine Crime Writers), CB (Crime Bake) and personal. All the to-dos get divided up among them. I would say it helps me keep balanced, but that’s not my nature. I usually dive deep into stuff. So mostly, it reminds me what hanging out there while I’m on one of my deep dives. The to-dos in my running chronological notes in my Levenger Junior Notebook, which also contains my calendar and is never far from my side.
Edith: I love all these different strategies! I keep a daily short-term to-do list next to my laptop. After Ramona DeFelice Long posted about the ten-item to-do list last week, I went back and counted up how many items I normally have on the list, and it turns out to be about ten. I have two priority items on the top every day, and I cross them off every day: Write (or Edits/Revise, depending), and Walk. The day after we got back from our Old Orchard retreat, I had twenty things on the list, but seven didn’t get done, and some were very tiny…like “shower.” Think I needed a boost of confidence that day or what?
Readers: How do you deal with things that have to get done right now, pretty soon, all at once?
I’d be lost without my Google calendar. I print out a copy (including each time it changes) and tack it on my corkboard, two feet in front of my face, so I can’t hide from it. It’s good only for one month at a time, but at least I can see what’s urgent. I think I need the visual reminder, “seeing” the weeks laid out–but I write plenty of lists too.
In addition to the daily to-do list (thanks for plug, Edith!), I have a monthly paper calendar on my desk, that’s color coded with editing and writing deadlines. I hate to have tasks creep up on me, but when they do–or when I agree to do an emergency project–I’m a coffee-drinking, ice cream-eating, all nighter. Still have the old college habit!
Edith I love that you had shower on the list! Some days crossing something off just feels so good no matter what it is!
I have two weekly lists: writing goals and household (fertilize roses, chicken on sale Tuesday). The anticipation of dealing with a miserable task is always worse than just hunkering down and doing it. My reward for completing my writing goals is shortbread cookies.
“The anticipation of dealing with a miserable task is always worse than just hunkering down and doing it.”
I sit and stare off into space for a while, trying to psych myself up to do the task with the deadline looming. Then, I finally sit down and actually do it now that I’ve wasted an hour or so. No, it doesn’t help at all, but I come from the ostrich, stick your head in the sand approach to life.
I’m getting better about that as I get older, however, which is good since I’m not a very organized person and can waste time with the best of them, which is why I was almost half an hour late to my later than normal starting ultimate Frisbee game last night.
I am a list maker–and also, at times, a list ignorer. I have a nice organizer notebook (an inexpensive but well-thought-out system from Staples) which I am trying to use more consistently. I also tend to make a lot of notes and lists on Post-Its and note pads, which pile up, and then every once in a while I go through them and consolidate, crossing off what got done and moving anything that didn’t to a new list. It’s not in any way an elegant or efficient method, but on the other hand I very rarely forget anything either. Something about the act of writing it down plants it in my memory banks and stuff eventually gets done, even if I don’t go back and look at the lists. Can you tell I’m a pantser when it comes to writing, LOL?
We all have those things that keep getting pushed aside because we just don’t want to do them. For those things, my friend, writer Nicole Burton, uses her 15 minute technique. She commits to devoting 15 minutes to a dreaded task and no more. That way she doesn’t feel overwhelmed by it. Usually she finds that once she gets into it, she spends more time than she allotted. Sometimes the hardest part is just getting started.
“Shower” frequently appears on my daily to-do lists, too. So do “laundry” and “clean litter boxes” (three cats, four litter boxes, no waiting). Those get done. Others, like vacuum, dust, and clean bathroom may stay on successive lists for an embarrassingly long time! I just had two sets of page proofs show up within a week of each other. For that kind of tight deadline I pretty much drop everything else until it’s done.
I vacuum when the clumps of cat hair start moving around the (wooden) floors and scaring me.
In grad school I worked on the paper, project, or presentation that was due next, while at the same time I was a student minister, medical school counselor/advisor, and divinity school site supervisor. Add to those in my last year seeing family therapy patients at a hospital for certification in family therapy. I paid for my clinical supervision by helping a psychologist 2-3 hours a week increase his private practice. The only thing I could do was keep on and not stop. I missed a few things but I graduated. For 12 years I was on call 24/7 as a counselor in residence for medical students I don’t recommend this at all, although there were many rewards.
Love having Write and Walk as top priorities on your list, Edith. Think I’ll emulate that!
I use different-colored post-it notes in my own funny little prioritization scheme and toss them as I go. Makes for kind of a looney, but colorful approach that works for me. Again, whatever works . . . . And I do subscribe to the at-least-fifteen-minutes of the humongous task you just hate to tackle every day. Works.
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