What I Learned When I Didn’t Meet the Deadline
You know that sweaty-palmed, panicked feeling you get when the clock is ticking and the words aren’t coming out fast enough? Every writer has been there. No matter how hard you try to focus and write faster, it quickly becomes clear that you aren’t going to beat the clock. And then…you miss the deadline. Just like that. Poof! It flies by.
Then you experience the 5 stages of grief—denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance. But guess what? The world doesn’t end and we know there is much to be learned from mistakes.
At Wix, we are allowed to fail. In fact, we’re encouraged to do so. I didn’t really know what that meant until recently, when I missed a deadline. It was quite a painful experience as I’m used to fulfilling my obligations on schedule, often in advance. I love being early for everything, like parties (yes, I actually like this), flights, the doctor’s office – you name it. This passion for being first also transfers to my work. That’s why it was surprising to find myself flat out of time. I was in unchartered territory.
The contributing factors aren’t important because, at the end of the day, I was the owner of the project. Ownership here at Wix means taking charge and being responsible without excuses. The bottom line was that I didn’t meet the deadline and, while that was pretty tough on my ego, I took action to ensure it wouldn’t happen again.
Here are some practical tips from one writer to another to save you the future shame of missing a deadline.
Get organized Each writer has their own method and you need to find what works for you. Maybe it’s mapping out your daily work plan for a project, calculating the total number of hours it will take, or blocking out uninterrupted writing time in your calendar when you ban meetings and other distractions. Whatever your approach, overestimate how long the task will take to complete. Worst case? You finish early. But overestimating will save you when, inevitably, the unexpected happens. Your cat will get sick and you’ll miss 2 days of work, you’ll be thrown on another, more urgent project, or maybe you simply won’t write as fast as you thought. Sometimes I can stare at the same sentence for 10 minutes and rewrite it a dozen times. It happens.
Make yourself accountable This is a big one. You know yourself; if you can self-motivate, great! But some of us need a manager or a writing buddy to keep tabs on our progress. If that’s you, make sure you have a colleague on board to keep you on track. A good project management tool can also help you meet your deadlines at work. Try putting due dates into Google calendar or start using Trello to organize your tasks.
Anticipate blockers I know, “blockers” sounds like one of those techy words that doesn’t mean much. But in my own recent experience, it meant a lot. A blocker is anything that keeps you from getting to the finish line on a project. Often, it’s a dependency you have on external people or processes. The trick is to try to anticipate a blocker before it stands in your way. Then, you can figure out how to work around it and adjust your writing schedule accordingly. One blocker I faced was that I needed to interview many people for my project—a lot of important, busy people. I didn’t realize how long it would take to schedule and reschedule with these people, particularly since many of the meetings were canceled more than once.
Ask for help This is the really hard one. So hard, in fact, that I didn’t ask for help until it was too late. I was held back by fear—fear of getting in trouble, losing face, looking weak or losing my job. But despite these concerns, I needed to do it anyway. In asking for help, you have far more to gain than to lose. Communicating that you need help can make all the difference in ensuring you meet the deadline. We often think that humility and vulnerability make us look weak to a manager, but sometimes they are exactly what a manager wants to see. TIP: When asking for help, be clear about what you need. Is it time, editing or just someone to bounce ideas off of? Determine what will help you the most and then be brave and ask for it!
What to do when you miss the deadline
If you do miss a deadline, own it. Even if there were other players involved in your text’s demise, you are the writer and the text was yours to deliver. Sure, it can be painful, but most learning experiences are. That’s why we’re told on Day One at Wix that failure is okay. The key is to learn from your mistakes and move forward with your new-found knowledge.
Did you miss a deadline at work? Tell us your story in the comments below.
Rebecca Flanders, Internal Branding Writer at Wix