Archive for January 25th, 2010

In praise of deadlines—that’s right,”praise”

January 25, 2010

You may hate the pressure of meeting deadlines but I hate the alternative. Nothing gets my anxiety level up more than when I ask a client about the deadline for a project and they don’t have one. “Well, we’d like it done in the next couple of months,” they’ll say. The subtext here is that there is no external motivation such as an upcoming annual meeting, grant deadline or trade show for which the materials are needed. Many times, this means the project is going to stall at some point and drag on to the point where no one wants to work on it anymore.

My point is, that even if there is no looming external event that is driving the need for a new website, publication, brochure or what have you, you need to create one. A reasonable deadline creates and sustains momentum and helps to ensure that your project will, indeed, be completed.

It’s more than that, though. When a project languishes waiting for approvals, feedback or revisions, everyone involved becomes disenchanted. That shiny new concept you developed for the website homepage or advertising copy just ends up feeling like last Thursday’s leftover tuna casserole.

I’ve had projects dependent on client participation that have stalled for several weeks at a time. Each time the client “reignites” the work, it feels as though I’m starting from scratch. I need to remind myself of all the little details that went into establishing the goals and objectives of the project. I sometimes end up just wanting to get the thing done and over with.  It’s also very difficult for workflow scheduling if you’re a one-person shop, as I am. In the end, I feel I haven’t done the best job I could have.

So, what do you do when there is no externally imposed event to dictate a solid deadline? You create one.

I urge my clients to set deadlines based on something that will motivate all of us to get the project completed by a certain time. Maybe it’s an internal staff meeting set to “launch” the new materials or a declaration to your board of directors that the items supporting the new brand will be ready for a specific date. Much like dieting or quitting smoking, there’s a greater chance of success if you’ve declared your intentions publicly.

Many people hate deadlines—fear them even, but they really are necessary for good project management. If you want high quality work from your creative consultant, freelance writer or PR professional, set one.

What do you think? Are deadlines really necessary?