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Deadline girl

“I’m not a procrastinator

I just prefer doing most of my work in a deadline induced panic”

When I read this on Facebook the other day, it made me smile. It is not totally true for me (I do not panic), but I do work best when I am in deadline mode. For example I have never been good at preparing in advance for Christmas. I have friends who start in September and are ready a few weeks before the festivities begin. By then I have not even started yet. Christmas Eve is my deadline and it will all come together by that date. It is the same in my working life. Being a magazine publisher, my working days, weeks and months are determined by big deadlines. Everything I do in the lead up to going to print with our magazines is contributing to that one big moment.  And every year at Christmas time and every big magazine deadline I wonder if it will all come together again on time, and it somehow always does. But I have never really questioned why until quite recently.

Over the seven years that I now publish I have had many deadlines and so far have never missed one. Only once I was close to it, and had arranged with the printers that I might be late, but still made it. I thought everybody else worked in the same way, but in conversation with my printers they said that many people ask for extensions to their deadline and are often hours or days late going to print.

Why not me? What is it that makes me a deadline girl as I call myself these days? Is it preparation, is it careful planning, is it dividing up tasks in smaller bits? Is it knowing exactly at what point in time I need to have what task ready in the lead up to the deadline? Is it the adrenaline that kicks in at deadline time that makes me perform and makes me peak?

Getting all the magazines ready for print takes me exactly 7.5 days if all goes well. I start on the Monday and go to print the following Monday. In that time I design a long list of adverts for our customers, I lay out all the 158 pages in total, I place the adverts, design and lay out the editorial pages, prepare the events pages, find front pages and cross the t’s and dot the I’s. I finish with careful proofing and pass it all over to my husband who proof reads the lot before I correct the mistakes and prepare for print. I know exactly where I need to be at what point in the week. If things are held up or if there are more adverts to design than normal, I will work longer and in the evening to get to that point. I suppose I give myself mini-deadlines along the way.

It is when I am in my flow when I work best. I can manage these deadlines because there are only six of those in the year and I have as few distractions as possible. My team does not disturb me if not necessary, the phone calls get answered by my colleague and I only deal with urgent emails. Even my children know when I am in deadline and our whole week gets adjusted.

What I have learned from these big deadlines is that I am much less effective when I have no deadlines. But work needs doing, so I agree smaller deadlines with my colleagues, with suppliers or with myself by planning them in my diary. If not, I procrastinate. I admit. But there is nothing wrong with some procrastination when you know you can count on your ability to perform when it really matters. So I would not call it ‘deadline induced panic’ but ‘deadline induced productivity’. It is just ever so important to ensure enough planning and preparation that the productivity does not move into panic mode. And as long as you know you are a deadline girl or boy, and you learn to work this to your advantage and not worry too much when you are less productive in less busy times, you can move mountains.

And you never know what happens in life, so one day I might have to ask my printer very kindly for an extension on my deadline. But at least I know I have built up a lot of credit over the years by being on time every time so far!

This blog was written by Sascha McDonald, publisher and business owner of All About Local Magazines Ltd, in Colwall – Worcestershire. With a background in the voluntary and community sector, Sascha has been publishing now for well over 7 years and employs a small team to help her get four local community magazine titles to print successfully and profitably every two months. In her blogs she shares her insights and experience from running voluntary organisations and her own businesses for over 15 years.

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