Every client wants to know three things when they hire freelance or contract creatives:
- Will he or she accomplish what I need him to do?
- Will he or she deliver it in the form that I need it delivered?
- Will he or she meet my deadline?
I live on both sides of the table. I sometimes set deadlines. Other times, I am given deadlines. Either way, there is purpose and function behind every production schedule.
So I’m a little crazy about dates.
I have to admit I have a date-driven bent to my personality. I’m the guy who makes lists of lists just so I don’t miss anything. Without a date, I’m paralyzed. So naturally I look to hire and work with people who also respect my calendar and the time constraints that come with every project.
Don’t ask me to do something unless you’re ready to assign a date to it. I extend the same expectations to others. That may not be how you operate but when there are multiple people involved (and there is always at least two in every project), deadlines serve some very specific purposes and functions.
- Deadlines set expectations. When a deadline is set, everyone understands when the work is to be completed. Agreeing to meet a deadline is an informal contract of sorts. It is also a trust-building opportunity. Consistently meet deadlines and people will trust you to get the work done. Consistently miss deadlines and people will hire someone else…no matter how good you are at what you do.
- Deadlines communicate the value of time. Everyone is busy. Everyone also has multiple projects going on at the same time. When a deadline is set, everyone in the room or on the project knows what that means. When deadlines are missed, it adjusts the entire production schedule. This wasn’t a big deal when print ruled because lead times were often long. This is a very big deal in digital publishing because lead times are always short.
- Deadlines keep the project in sync. When people working together on a project agree to a common goal, it’s amazing how our efforts are directed at reaching that goal. Deadlines eliminate confusion and force all the moving parts to work together to get the job done.
- Deadlines provide a way to measure progress. Setting a deadline offers an objective piece of data to measure progress. You are either on track to meet the deadline or on track to miss the deadline. Adjustments often have to be made at various points along the way in order to meet the final deadline and complete the project on time. No one should ever be surprised that you met or missed a deadline.
- Deadlines force conversation. When two or more people are involved on a project, a conversation has to take place. Deadlines create a common effort where teams communicate with each other throughout the process. Deadlines will either reveal you have the right people assembled for the team or will reveal the weakest part of the team. Nonetheless, a conversation is often what is needed for multiple people to work together to get it done. This is especially true on creative projects.
Dates and deadlines focus your energy and will drive your creativity.
Don’t miss the opportunity deadlines offer by forcing you to create the very best product for your clients or colleagues. Working within time constraints—as long as they are reasonable and reviewed often—will help create a healthy, productive work environment, produce something you are proud to share with others, and ensure your project, campaign, or initiative launches on time.
How have deadlines helped you perform at peak levels? How have deadlines created a disaster? What did you learn in both situations?
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