Stop for a moment and think back to the meanest, crustiest school teacher you ever had. You know the type–old, stubborn, set in their ways.
Do you recall that teacher standing at the blackboard, recording a seemingly endless list of deadlines for your math homework, science projects and book reports?
The dates would be written in large, glaring letters at the front of the room, where no one could possibly forget them.
When faced with a classroom of indignant groans, how would your teacher respond?
“In the real world, there are deadlines for EVERYTHING.”
Was your teacher correct? And could their advice really be the key to a more successful writing career?
What Type of Writer Are You?
There are two types of writers:
- Those who have frequent deadlines to meet
- Those who have no deadlines to meet.
Both situations offer pros and cons.
If writing earns you a living, you’ll know deadlines are essential to your work, just as they would be in any other career. Still, having too many at once, or knowing you have little time to play with, can cause anxiety.
If you write for enjoyment or make only a small supplementary income from writing, you probably work at your own pace and submit pieces whenever they’re finished. Perhaps this is less stressful, but it can cause procrastination and less efficient work habits to creep into your day.
Which category do you fall into?
If you are someone who doesn’t write to a deadline, you may be doing yourself a disservice.
Here are some reasons why deadlines (even self-imposed ones) can make you more successful:
Gain More Experience in Less Time
That article you’ve been working on for two months may be great, but in the meantime, how much exposure is your writing getting? And really, why is it taking you so long?
Setting deadlines for your work empowers you to do something that can make a major impact on your writing career:
It allows you to gain more experience in less time.
When a time limit is imposed on each of your pieces, you can accept a greater number of assignments. Or, if you make your own deadlines, your level of productivity will necessarily increase to meet them.
The result? You might find, with a little discipline, you’re selling three times as many pieces as you were before, or at least increasing your portfolio and gaining valuable writing experience at the same time.
Improve Work Efficiency
In order to meet the deadlines you’ll be accepting or setting for yourself, you’ll have to make some changes.
Some ways deadlines can improve how efficiently you write are:
- Organization: You will need to use a day planner, hand-held device, computer program or other method of organizing your assignments and their due dates.
- Work Habits: Adopting more effective work habits, like setting aside specific times of the day for writing, will be necessary to meeting deadlines.
- Productivity: Procrastination will not be an option when you have someone waiting for your work. If you’re imposing a deadline on yourself, keeping it somewhere in plain sight will help you avoid putting it off.
Make More Money
The equation is simple and indisputable: More Writing + Less Time = More Money
The greater the number of assignments you take on, the greater the chances of acceptance, and the greater probability of making money from your efforts.
If you plan to earn any sort of income from your writing, setting deadlines is one way to get you there.
So, if you lack motivation for personal or professional reasons, the potential monetary rewards could be just the thing to get you moving.
The Final Ingredient
Now we know your teacher was right, but there’s one more thing to consider.
Would they have assigned you a research project and made it due the following day? Of course not. They wouldn’t expect you to complete an in-depth task without adequate time.
The same rule applies to deadlines. Above all else, they must be realistic to be reached.
Maybe that teacher of yours wasn’t so bad after all.
Join the discussion
Mike-Simple Web Writing Secrets says
I love your thoughts on deadlines. Particularly your point about using deadlines to help you gain more experience in less time. It’s so true. For me, I set myself small daily deadlines, like: complete an article about “X” today.
A great insight I learned once was that a task will always expand to fill the time you’ve allocated for it. This ties in to your school teacher metaphor because, as you know, most students won’t begin assignments until they’re almost due.
Thanks for writing about this
.-= Mike-Simple Web Writing Secrets´s last blog ..5 productivity tips for web writers =-.
You said, “… a task will always expand to fill the time you’ve allocated for it.” I couldn’t agree more. Having more time to complete something isn’t always necessary or ideal.
When I’m teaching, I never give students excessive time to complete things. Unless they’re on a tight leash, everything gets left to the last minute.