Missing Deadlines: When It’s OK

by Randy Murray on July 16, 2012

In my life as a professional business writer, I live and die by deadlines. I’ve made my reputation taking on big, difficult assignments and turning in high quality work dependably on time.

It’s not just a part of my business plan. Missing a deadline or other commitment plunges me into crippling guilt. It’s something I’d rather not experience. If I don’t do a good job and I don’t meet my deadlines I can’t just shrug it off. I have to plan and make my deadlines out of simple self preservation.

I will, however, renegotiate deadlines, but I do this infrequently and only with enough notification that it isn’t a surprise to the customer. From this perspective I don’t ever miss deadlines.

For my own projects, my creative work in particular, deadlines are a much different thing. I don’t set deadlines. I create goals. And sometimes, I miss those goals, mostly guilt free. I had a goal of completing a new full-length play by the end of July. That’s not going to happen. And I don’t feel at all guilty about it.

This missed goal (delayed, really) for my play happened for two main reasons: I was much busier with paying business work than I expected to be (which is a good thing) and more important, I discovered in the writing of this new play that I didn’t really understand what the play was about. My characters do, and they’re telling me, but it’s a slow process.

I still plan on completing the initial draft this year and I hope to solicit some of the readers of this site to become early readers of the script, too.

That’s a goal I hope to keep.

Missing Deadlines: When It’s OK by Randy Murray, unless otherwise expressly stated, is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Jim Raffel July 16, 2012 at 8:07 am

Randy, I agree when it’s your own work the deadlines are really goals and they need to be soft. I’ve cut way back on content for my personal blog in favor of that for my businesses. As such I want the content I do publish on the personal site to be better. Just last night I got a note from my editor about the post scheduled for today. It needs some work I could not get to last night Sony publish later today. At the same time a blog post for my company blog and an email for the same will go on schedule tomorrow no matter what.

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Randy Murray July 16, 2012 at 8:29 am

For me it’s about being a professional and making choices. Just like you’ve outlined, you have a clear picture of what’s required for your profession and meet your obligations and you know what’s personal and flexible. I applaud your push for quality in everything that you do (and I get that same push back from my editor. I had to kill a post that I liked, but that she didn’t and it was the right decision, even though I spent hours on it).

Thanks for sharing, Jim!

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Jim Raffel July 16, 2012 at 8:40 am

…and of course now you can write a post about killing a post :)

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