Posts Tagged ‘deadlines’

I’ve written several posts over the years about how deadlines are our friends. I believe that is true with all my heart, but is there ever a time not to work with deadlines. The answer is yes.

Jesus, in the Sermon on the Mount, tells us not to swear and part of that is this idea of letting your “yes be yes and your no be no” and we need take this to heart. As creatives, when we commit to doing something, we are often doing something the person commissioning us cannot to for themselves. They are depending on us to finish what we start and they need it by a certain time. God is not glorified if we prove to be undependable. To glorify God for the creative is to deliver what you promised, the best that you can do it and on time. Anything less can bring dishonor to His name. It is for this reason that we have to be careful about deadlines.

I made a personal rule a couple years ago that when it comes to taking on side work, I don’t take anything with a tight deadline. I broke that rule last week and I’m wishingI would have set things up differently. Now you might think, “Dave, you’re a creative, deadlines are a fact of life. How can you say you don’t take deadlines? What are you? A prima donna?” No, I guarantee you that’s not the case.

The fact of the matter is I already have more than a few deadlines. These are hard deadlines–things I must complete every week. The most obvious one is weekly. Every Sunday morning at 10:00, I must go to the front of my church and I better have a sermon ready when I get there. People joke, at least I hope they’re joking, that pastors only work one day a week, but the truth is, there is a lot to be done each week, but the thing that gets the most attention, and takes the most creative energy is the sermon. That’s a firm deadline. I also lead our church’s weekly adult Bible Study and for the last year and a half, I have been writing the curriculum. That means I have to be ready to go every Wednesday at 7:00. Next are the speaking engagements. 30-50 times a year, I speak at other churches and different events, and all those things have to be prepared. In addition, I am working on my masters. Now fortunately I found a school that is very flexible, or I would have had to drop that. I am also a husband, father and grandfather, and the last thing I would want to do is mess up those relationships. That’s why I don’t take deadlines.

I still want to serve others with my gift and I still can, but I must make sure that the people understand that I can’t do tight deadlines. This means I have to be secure enough to understand if people have to go with someone else for a project. The truth is, there are only so many hours in a day and we all have to invest them well. My recommendation. Only take deadlines if you know you can deliver and deliver well. We all need a little margin and some rest in our lives, otherwise this gift starts to feel more like a curse. It’s okay to say no sometimes, especially if saying yes would mean not keeping your word.

Well this may have been the most days of posting I have missed in a row in quite some time. I have no excuse other than a lot is going on. The church is going and growing, On May 13, I had a wonderful speaking engagement at Paxton Church of the Brethren where I did a revamped presentation of my Creation Station program for a Mother/Child banquet. Then the next day was Mother’s Day, I taught the membership class, preached and did an anointing service after church before going home to catch a little nap and then visit my son and his family. I was a great day. Monday I took my mom out to breakfast, did some yard work and had some vehicle maintenance done and then yesterday it was back to work at church, preaching at a nursing home and working on this week’s material. In between all that I did two weeks worth of Creachertoons, some of the illustrations for one of my upcoming books, began outlining a book and the presentation that goes along with it. I really enjoy this life.

You might think that was a whole bunch of stuff you didn’t need to know, but here’s what you do need to know. Life happens and sometimes we might miss one of our self-imposed deadlines. While I would not make a habit of it, it’s not the end of the world.
Look again at the list and you will see priorities. A new presentation, even a revamped one takes time. Presentation have a hard deadline so it is important that you hit that deadline even more important, someone is trusting you enough to put you before their congregation (or audience or whatever) and you have to give that your very best, so that moves to near the top. After that was my church, again, there’s a hard deadline, but it’s more than that. God has entrusted me to love teach and care for a clock of His children, so my work with the church is also a priority. You might have caught that I took a nap in there and thought that could have gone to the back burner. Well not exactly, rest is hugely important and your body will make you pay if you don’t do it.

Visiting my family may not seem urgent, but trust me when I tell you, they are also given to me by God to love. I have backburnered my family in my life and it was a mistake that will never happen again if I can help it. Creachertoons and the book stuff did not have to be done, but I got inspiration and I can do those things in short bursts of time in what I call the time between.

Lastly, I don’t want you to think that you are not important to me. I value the time that you take to read all that I post. The truth is sometimes you just run out of time and while we all have to do our best to be faithful, we also have to accept the idea that there are only 24 hours in a day and so we have to prioritize. The other truth is I really didn’t feel like I had anything earthshaking to share here in the midst of all the other deadlines. I used to fret over that, but lately I take it on faith that God will allow me to catch up with all my obligations. I simply need to make the most of every opportunity. So today (May 17) and over the next few days I beg your indulges as I catch up. I hope you’ll read everything I post and that all of it inspires you.

What can you learn from this: Don’t beat yourself up, do the best you can and keep going. God is faithful. Bring him your best.

Well yesterday I had a plan. I had a lot of things I was going to get done and then life happened. My wife went out to her car to go to work and it sounded more like a Harley than a Nissan. Something was wrong with it, which meant she was taking my vehicle and my job was now to get the car to the garage. The problem is the garage is five miles away and my one son is student teaching and the other was already at work. Now what would I do?

Well fortunately my parents live in the same town as the garage. So I called my mom and she said she could bring me home. Then when I got to their house, mom asked if I wanted to go to breakfast with her. I had already eaten, but I haven’t spent a lot of time with her lately so I went along. My schedule for the day was out window, but here’s the thing. The time with my mom and her friends was a great blessing. As she was driving me home, mom made it clear that she was blessed with the time together too.

Why do I share this, well the guy who so often writes about setting deadlines and how deadlines are our friends also occasionally needs to make the point that some things are more important. Sometimes your schedule can wait. Sometimes it should. In the midst of all of our trying to accomplish, don’t forget to enjoy life’s blessings.

In out lives most things are important. Sometimes we need to pick the most important.

We dread them so much… deadlines. We feel the pressure, we get anxious. They make us feel under the gun. We hate them, and we shouldn’t, deadlines are our friends. I was thinking about it this morning on my prayer walk. I was at a retreat for pastors who are new to their churches over the weekend and we were all asked the question, “What has been the biggest adjustment in your transition?” For me that answer was easy. I’ve been a pastor before, dealt with people before, none of that stuff is really new. No, for me the thing that is really new is this is the first time in my life that ministry has been my main source of income and the only thing I have to work on. Before this, ministry had to be fit in around the edges of my other job, now it is my “job.”

I was contemplating this answer this morning as I walked and started to think about the deadlines in my former life and how I don’t have them now. When I was editing a magazine, there were times of immense pressure around the release of the magazine. Over all I liked the job, but if I’m being honest, I don’t miss those days even a little bit. I started to think I don’t have deadlines anymore but then it hit me, I really do. Every Sunday at 10:00 a.m. is a deadline, so are special services and speaking engagements. I have to be done and ready to go by the time I step up to the pulpit. It’s the same, but it doesn’t feel that way. What’s changed? I now look forward the deadline. You should too. Deadlines are your friend.

Think about it. How often do you as a creative, endlessly tweak something trying to reach some self-imposed perfection? How often do you put things off because you’re stuck? How often do you procrastinate or struggle with creative block? Deadlines help with all those things. The deadline is the time when the dream must become reality. It’s the time when you take what you’re creating and bring it to it’s intended purpose: to be shared with the world. It forces you to do the work. It forces you to stop staring at the blank page or screen or whatever and to start the project. It forces you to stop thinking about what you don’t have and starting to work with what you do, while also securing the resources and help that you need. Deadlines make us work. Without deadlines we probably would never get anything done. So keep your deadlines and if there is no deadline on a project, you’d be wise to set one.

Remember the whole purpose of creating is to share our creations with the world. Set a deadline, get it done and ship it.

Deadlines are our friends!

elephantcookbookOops, I did it again. I signed up for a rather lengthy animated video project. If you notice this post is post-dated, that’s why. I have to be honest, this one is a lot harder than I imagined. I was anticipating less animation and more “motorized Power Point” on this one, but as I got into it, there was just so much more I could do with it. I decided to take the harder route that will produce a better end product. That being said, my deadline is out the window.

Now to be clear, there is a deadline and a drop dead deadline, and I am still well within the drop dead deadline, but the initial deadline passed just over a week ago. How do you deal with that? Here are a few things to consider.

  • Try to be in on the original setting of the deadline: I was in the meeting, and we set the deadline ahead of time. When we set the preliminary deadline, I was upfront with the client ahead of time. My speaking schedule has been really intense this year and I had just gained a new freelance client. I knew that going in and so did my client. These are people with whom I already have a great relationship, ad they knew I would try to make it, but that it would be difficult. Also did you notice the phrase preliminary deadline. This would be an arbitrarily set, “it would be nice to have it by this date, but no one will die if I don’t make it date.” Again I was upfront with the struggles that might come in meeting this deadline. If they had not been okay with that, I would have had to decline. Better to decline than to mess up the client. I like having the preliminary deadline because it gives me something to shoot for.
  • If you know you’re not going to make the deadline, make sure the client knows in advance: In this case, it was clear I was not going to get there and no amount of working harder would get me there. I was stretched to the limit. I told them about a week ahead that there was no way I could get done, but would make every effort to get it done as close to that as possible (and I am.)
  • Show your progress: This project has segments, so at the same time I sent the note saying I wasn’t going to make it, I sent them what I had finished so far, and they were pleased, which goes to the next point.

    Exceed expectations: I think it was easier to get past the deadline because I showed the client something that exceeded their expectations. They could see how much work was going into it. And the last one is key…

    NEVER, EVER, EVER, LEAVE YOUR CLIENT HANGING! DELIVER HE BEST YOU CAN IN THE TIME YOU HAVE! I am still a month ahead of when this project will be shown to it’s audience and I should finish the first draft tomorrow. If I didn’t think I could get done by that date, I would have said no to it. Once I said yes, only death will keep me from giving them a finished project ahead of their final deadline.

To be clear, I have a good relationship with this client and know what they like. If they had been people I didn’t know, I probably would have dropped my expectations, gave them just what they were expecting and delivered on time. You have to know who you’re dealing with and judge accordingly.

Relationships are a huge key in all of this. Deliver your best and never abuse the relationship.

DEADLINESI am blessed to be part of the oversight committee for a new church plant. I love the energy around people who are stepping out to further God’s Kingdom. One of the things we were asking the leadership team about was setting a launch date, the day when they go public. It felt like a lot of pressure in some ways, and yet, I believe setting that date is essential. It’s a deadline.

A lot of times we creatives look at deadlines with great trepidation. We see them as a limitation and they are. But deadlines are also our friends. Here’s why:

1. They give us a goal. A deadline is something to shoot for. It’s the date when it has to be done. For my friends in the church plant it gives them the day they go public, but beyond that, it allows them to set goals and benchmarks along the way. It’s great to plan but sooner or later you have to open.

2. The remove procrastination. In my work with community theater, there is always something that impresses me. Before they even hold auditions, they know the dates of the shows. They have to, it partly determines how they pay for the rights, etc. From there, they get to work. The show dates loom on the horizon and steady progress must be made toward them. When it’s show time, there’s no procrastinating, no “we’re not ready,” no postponing and no endless tweaking. The show must go on.

3. The deadline gives us permission to be done. There was a time in my career when I would finish a piece of work and never look at it again. The reason for this was simple. If I looked at it, I’d want to mess with it, change it, tweak it. It never would have gone anywhere until I achieved an unattainable state of perfection. The deadline allows me to say, “It’s the best I can do at this point in my life, with what I have at this moment and it’s done.” This allows me to get on with life and on to the next project.

4. Accountability. As I write this, I confess I am behind a deadline. I am writing a lesson based on the latest Five Iron Frenzy album for my friends at Interlinc. The irony is I should probably be writing that instead of this piece on deadlines. Truth is, I’m a little blocked there and this is flowing. Nonetheless, as someone who works on both sides of the deadline equation as both contributor and the one waiting for the contributions. I can tell you deadlines are important and meeting them is equally important. Sometimes the deadline forces me to pound away at the creative block because I know someone is depending on me.

For these reasons and many more, deadlines are our friends. I am convinced we should even impose them on ourselves when no deadline has beem imposed.

How do you feel about deadlines?

I had a great weekend this past weekend preaching and painting at Curryville Church of the Brethren. Pastor David Stiles and his folks there provided a very warm and inviting environment and it was one of those weekends that, in spite of missing my family, seemed to go by too fast. I did four messages from my Story: Parables of Jesus presentation, plus an additional spontaneous painting (the lion) inspired by the performance of the band “Them Preachers” performance of mighty to save. It was a really nice event and the Spirit of God was moving.

One of the things I really enjoyed was that fact that though I am a speed painter, two of the services were accompanies by extended musical performances giving me about a half hour to paint rather than my standard 12 (or less) minutes. This did however give me something to think about. The first night (Friday) I did the parable of the sower in which I painted the first painting of Jesus sowing seeds. I was painting while a wonderful pianist did a beautiful piano recital. Basically she as to play for a half an hour and in her last number a dancer was going to do am interpretive dance after which I would begine preaching. The music was beautiful, very calming and soothing, and I was painting with the flow. I was doing just fine when I noticed a flurry of motion behind me. I turned to glance and realized it was the dancer. Time was almost up and I was not as “done” as I would have liked to have been. Now there was a second flurry of motion, ME, flying around to get the piece done.

Why do I share this? Because it’s really easy to get out of the flow of life. My deadline was approaching, I should have been able to finish easily but I slowed down and got off pace. In our creative lives, we all face deadlines, things that need to be done and it’s really easy to get off pace. Getting distracted, procrastinating, etc., leaves us pressured at the end to make the deadline. I know a lot of people say they work better under pressure, but I’m not convinced that’s true. Better to keep your pace and plug away until you reach your goal.

Are you on pace today? What are you putting off until the last minute? What distractions are taking you off pace? How can you get back on track and avoid deadline mayhem?

Thanks again to Curryville Church of the Brethren for a wonderful weekend.

Deadlines can be both friend and foe.

On one hand a deadline forces you to finish a project and ship it. Without deadlines some of us would never finish anything. In this case a deadline is your friend.

Other times, and I can be really guilty of this, a deadline can cause stress, aggravation and fear. In my life, this type of deadline is almost always self-imposed. I set a goal for myself, often an unrealistic one, and then stress myself out trying to do the impossible. Actually maybe calling the deadline the foe here is misstated. If the deadline is self imposed and unrealistic, the foe is the one who set it, in other words, I’m my own worst enemy.

How we handle deadlines matters. Often a deadline will feel unrealistic because we have waited too long to begin or because we focus on the whole job that needs to be done, rather than working incrementally, chipping away at the job a little at a time. I hear people say that they work better under pressure all the time. I’m not convinced that’s true. You may feel that, but if I asked your family what you’re like under pressure, would they have the same response?

If you are in the place to set your own deadlines, I highly recommend it. Meeting goals is a wonderful thing and as artists, without a drop dead date, some of us will tweak forever, especially if you have tendencies toward perfectionism. Just make sure the deadline is realistic and attainable.

No one will want to be around you if it isn’t.

This video blog message looks at the importance of setting a goal and a deadline and meeting both.