Deadlines Can’t Touch Me
This week I learned a thing or two about deadlines.
Admittedly, my typical experience with deadlines went like this:
- Receive Assignment
- Procrastinate and do whatever I want
- Begin work on task ~10 minutes before it’s due
- Cruise on to greatness
I’d like to say that this laissez-faire (lazy-fair?) approach to time management started early in my childhood, when I realized that homework didn’t really need to be done at-home, as it was usually so simple I could finish it during the downtime in class. When you learn this in the 2nd or 3rd grade, you develop a sort of pragmaticism that says “why not play video games all night and just do my homework during attendance”.
This is a habit that I carried into my adult life and typically have rationalized it as “I will work on whatever is inspiring me the most right now”. I still hold that this approach has led to some of the best ideas, discoveries and improvements I’ve come up with throughout my professional life. Reminds me of Tesla from Atomic Robo having tea while his brain solved problems of the universe on it’s own.
Deadlines OP; nerf Deadlines
Regardless, as I was saying, this week I had a new experience with deadlines on my team, not just myself. Wednesday night we learned that we had half a day to work on a surprise presentation recapping a year’s worth of accomplishments. Boy of boy, there is nothing quite as privately humorous as the frantic flailing of colleagues who are not used to copy-writing or giving presentations trying to L2PowerPoint. Needless to say, we huddled up, cranked the hustle-o-tron to 11, and accomplished what we needed with entire minutes to spare.
With that in mind, I thought I’d share some deadline resources to help anyone who finds themselves in a similar situation.
(To be clear, these aren’t tips on how to meet a deadline in an organized fashion; this is purely for the “holy cow, let’s hammer this out like all-stars” last minute variety.)
1.) Keurig & Latte K-Cups – Honestly, ever last-minute work effort is predicated on appropriate doses of caffienne administered at consistent intervals. The chart on coffee-to-productivity looks a lot like the Vickie Mendoza diagonal. When you’re down to the wire, you can’t really take time to get a proper latte or americano from a local coffee shop, or even send the interns out on what should be their primary errand; we’ve got work to do. Therefore, the Keurig machine is responsible for at least a 15-30% increase in deadline productivity. If you get the K-Cups that come with their own creamer included, you shave off a few more seconds and prevent the inevitable clean-up when someone (probably Susan ._.) forgets to close the creamer and the next party shakes it all over the place.
2.) Collaboration Software – If we were better planners, we probably should have used a good collaboration software solution, such as Trello or even TFS. Instead we ended up saving working copies of the presentation locally, then throwing them all into a folder on the network drive and running back and forth between work areas to let each other know that a new copy had been saved. We win at organization, I tell ya!
3.) Headphones – On a typical “I MUST be productive” day, I have my skull candy earbuds in and fire-up the “coding soundtrack” or “indie while you work” rooms on turntable.fm. When I’m up against a deadline, though, nothing beats classical music. Maybe it’s a confirmation-bias thing stemming from reading studies about how classical music helps you perform better, but one of the best investments I’ve made in the last year has to be getting The 100 Most Essential Pieces of Classical Music album from itunes. Paired with some comfortable, noise-cancelling headphones, this combo has to give you at least +15 to Get Things Done.
4.) Data access and Excel – When you’re under the gun, there’s no time for amazing infographics or fancy data visualizations, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t still make the data shine. Jump through the data you have available, even the stuff you never thought to explore, and grab a few conversation-starting granules. Everyone in business expects charts that are up-and-to-the-right, but the big win happens when you show them “Hey, remember that thing you were resistant to but we pushed you to do anyways? Yeah, you’re welcome for the 30% increase in highly-qualified traffic. GG designers (mic drop & exit)”. On a related note, only pivot-table when you must pivot-table. Bloated files are not anyone’s friend, especially when you can’t control the presentation environment.
5.) A dedicated team – This one probably goes without saying, but that doesn’t mean it should go without recognizing. When it’s time to drop everything and pull together, you need a team that’s ready to join you in the trenches. A proper ninja squadron will be ready to fire up at a moment’s notice and stay will the job is done and presented. After-all, you can’t get the celebratory beers if you’re sticking to banker’s hours.
With these five things in play, you and your team can form up like Captain Planet and put together a crazy good presentation that makes other departments look like inept fools. Just hope you’re not the goofy kid with the heart ring; that monkey was really the only redeeming thing about his character.
Bonus Item: Time Machine – Clearly if you have one of these, you probably should not have to read posts on meeting last-minute deadlines, but hey, maybe you’re too busy not saving Pompeii. I’m not here to judge. Just fire up your time-space continuum distorting device of choice and leave yourself a note on whatever day you were exceptionally bored a few months ago. You’ll be surprised how effective having a casual outline that you can fill in as you go can be.