The tighter they are, the better I like it …

No, I am not talking about my jeans.  Or Spanx.  I’m talking about deadlines.  Yeah, I’m one of those sickos who loves deadlines.  I thrive on ’em.  So stressneedless to say this WordPress Daily Prompt is right up my alley:

“Do you thrive under pressure or crumble at the thought of it?  Does your best stuff surface as the deadline approaches or do you need to iterate, day after day to achieve something you’re proud of?  Tell us how you work best.”

It’s a good thing I’m a stress junkie, because advertising is all about deadlines.  They’re a constant and they’re brutal.  And they seem to get worse and worse all the time.  As I think about it, it’d be a stressful business even without the deadlines.

Why?

You try sitting in front  of a blank computer screen every day waiting for an idea to hit you, or words and sentences and images to start forming in your mind.  It’s not easy, trust me.  I’ve been doing this for a helluva long time — more than 30 years — and I still quiver every time I get a brief — hoping against hope it won’t be the day my mind stays blank.

Because it’s not like we have a switch we can turn on and off at will.  It either happens or it doesn’t.  And when it doesn’t, well, what are you supposed to do then?  Eat cat food?

Now factor in the deadlines and you’ve got a recipe for an ulcer.  Or a heart attack.  Or a drug or alcohol problem.

Or, in my case, much better work than I’d do if I had all the time in the world.

That’s why I loved blogging every day when I did it last year.  I didn’t have time to angst.  I’d sit down, turn the computer on, and start writing.  And because I was writing everyday I never seemed to be short on ideas.  It’s like exercise.  The more you do, the better you get.  The easier it becomes.  The more addicted to it you become.

Even on those rare occasions when I have a fair bit of time, I behave like I have no time.  I get started immediately.  First of all I like to attack the work while it’s all still fresh in my mind.  The longer I wait, the harder it is for me to get started.  Also, psychologically, I like to know I’m done, with time to spare — then I have the luxury of having the rest of the time to perfect my work.  That’s when I like to take my time.  In the reading.  And the re-reading.  And the editing.  And the polishing.  And the crafting.

Just last week I had a new project to work on.  The client warned me the deadline was tight and sent me a copy of the brief right away.  I was volunteering that day so I couldn’t actually start to work until I got home in the evening, but it was percolating in my brain all day.  By the time I went to sleep that night I had several ideas.  By mid morning the next day, I was able to send what I had to the client.

The deadline I’d imposed on myself was tougher than his.  Which is exactly the way I like it.

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25 thoughts on “The tighter they are, the better I like it …

  1. I’m a procrastinator, so I’m more of an inadvertent stress junkie. It’s something that I’m trying to change, because I don’t know that my best work does come out under pressure. It gets done, but that’s not quite the same thing. It sounds like you found the perfect career choice for your work style – often a rare thing!

    • You’re right, I did! I know I’m so lucky. It is rare. And yes, as a procrastinator you are also a stress junkie of sorts. I procrastinate about lots of other stuff, but not writing. Weird, isn’t it?

  2. And you’ve hit the nail on the head once again. This is exactly why I am forcing myself to blog daily again (perhaps skipping weekends). It’s easy to let something slide when you don’t have a “real” deadline. I also like to behave like I have no time when it comes to work writing. That way, there could be some wiggle room to explore and play around some more—or just fine tune. I don’t get it when people ask for more time, as if there isn’t more work waiting in the cue.

    • Totally agree with you Julie. I don’t get it either. I love having even a few extra hours to play around or edit one last time.

  3. The problem increases exponentially when you have multiple deadlines 🙂 It takes a lot of mental strength to keep working on deadlines. It’s really nice to know how you manage it. 🙂

    • Thanks. Yes, I forgot to mention we’re usually working on multiple jobs — and deadlines — at the same time. Crazy as it may sound, I really love it!

  4. I hate the stress factor attached to tight deadlines. I’ve done some of my best and also some of my worst work when under tight timelines. You never want to sacrifice the quality of your work just to meet a deadline. I’ve worked under high level management who demanded that projects be completed under impossible deadlines when they had absolutely no grasp as to the scope of the project, and they didn’t want to know. That just adds to the overall stress factor. Grrr! 🙂

  5. After many years as a journalist, I still apply my fast-approaching-deadline methods, which enables me to get much more done than appears possible. But these days, I don’t like all those deadlines so much—and there seem to be more and more of them as bureaucracy becomes ever more complicated. For example, I am contracted to teach a certain number of classes—all hours are specified. Yet, I still have to fill out and submit time sheets by a particular time each week in order to get paid fortnightly. It would be much more efficient for everyone if you filled out a form only if you DIDN’T teach the class (e.g. you were sick), which happens only rarely.

  6. I’m right there with you, Fransi. It’s amazing — the phrase “I work well under pressure” never fully resonated with me until I reduced my work hours to part-time. At first I loved all the free-time. So much less stress, it was great! Now I have to get creative with my time, constantly striving to keep myself busy and my mind occupied. I know, First World Problem. But true all the same.

  7. Retirement was a great invention Fransi – at least for me it was now I can procrastinate all I want, play golf when it suits take my time catching up with serious bloggers, write drivel, be a couch sometimes, the only time I think “pressure” now is when the tyres need air!! still miss your daily posts.
    Chris.

    • Sounds kinda nice, Chris. And it also sounds like you are really enjoying it. Good for you! Yes, you know sometimes I miss writing my daily posts but it was awfully time consuming. Maybe one day I’ll get back to it and in the meantime I’ll keep at it once a week. Thanks!!

  8. I agree with you, Fransi, I like deadlines too. I don’t get stressed about them though. At this point in life, I don’t do stress … no time for it! You pretty much summed it up for me here, in your own inimitable way. “It either happens or it doesn’t. And when it doesn’t, well, what are you supposed to do then? Eat cat food?” Love that!

  9. Working in the restaurant business (as I do) one has to learn to deal with stress and a fast-paced environment or crash and burn. Getting orders done correctly and in a timely manner. Making sure the prep is done before something is actually needed. Dishes being washed before they run out…and so on.

    Must be that I’m good at it…I’ve only been doing this now for nearly 20 years. 😉

    • And you’ve got to like it, too. I don’t think anyone can survive stressful jobs without liking what they do.

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