Deadlines are a fact of life for writers. And sometimes it’s hard to stay sane when you’re facing a tight deadline (or two or three…). Whether it’s a self-imposed time frame for building your author platform or a publisher breathing down your neck for edits to your novel, working under pressure can be stressful.
Time constraints are usually manageable, but it’s human nature to procrastinate—so many distractions!—and writers sometimes end up working feverishly around the clock right to the last minute. So, how do you stay sane when you’re on a deadline? Here are a few tips.
10 Ways To Stay Sane When You’re On A Deadline:
- Stop procrastinating. In a perfect world, we get started on projects immediately and work on them a little bit each day. In the real world, we are rarely this disciplined. Break the cycle of procrastination! Set realistic daily writing, editing, or submission goals—and vow to meet them. By breaking down your project into manageable parts, you can avoid getting overwhelmed at the last minute.
- Do the hardest task first each day. Tackle your least favorite assignments first, and the rest of the day’s to-do list will seem like a piece of cake.
- Minimize distractions. If you work from home, you may be distracted by the dust bunnies accumulating in the corners. If there’s time, do your chores first. Or tidy up your workspace and mentally form a wall between that area and the rest of the house. And set your work zone to be free of Facebook, YouTube, etc. If all else fails, head for the peace and quiet of your local library.
- Fortify yourself. When you’re hunkered down, make sure you have healthy snacks and plenty of fluids to help you power through. (Coffee and Twinkies don’t count.) See our article Brain Food For Writers: What To Eat To Support A Creative Mind.
- Save your work! Take precautions and back up your files every few minutes or risk losing your mind to a technical glitch.
- Take time out to relax. Indulge in a bubble bath or an hour with friends at a pizza place to give your brain a break. Regular exercise breaks can also help your brain recover and increase your productivity.
- Put things in perspective. If you don’t turn in your novel’s edits by the deadline, will you die? Will the earth blow up? Yes, you may be in trouble with your publisher, but the world isn’t going to end.
- Multitask. This isn’t always an effective strategy, but you can try taking advantage of non-work time. You might print out a difficult chapter and make rough revisions or notes while you’re waiting at the dentist’s office. When you return to work, you can dive right in and start revising.
- Learn to say No. Deadlines due right around the holidays? Don’t volunteer to decorate your church for Christmas or feel you have to send 100 holiday newsletters. It’s hard to be Martha Stewart AND Toni Morrison at the same time.
- Reward yourself. There’s a certain satisfaction that comes from meeting your goal, but you might be more motivated during the process if you dangle a carrot for yourself in advance: “Once I make this deadline, I will have a spa day and get a massage” or whatever floats your boat.
Deadlines are an unavoidable part of the writing life, just like rejection letters. As writers, you face deadlines every time you submit seasonal stories or essays to magazines, enter writing contests, or apply to writer retreats. Editors, publishers, and literary agents may impose deadlines on you as well.
So while time constraints are important, it’s also important to stay sane when you’re on a deadline—the quality of your writing will thank you.
Photo by Moonrhino
QUESTION: What is your most successful tip for staying sane while on a deadline?
Great article. Just what I needed to read right now!
Love this article. It’s certainly a challenge to avoid getting stressed and overwhelmed under deadline. But deadlines motivate me to finish, so it’s a good thing…if it’s an outside deadline.
I set time frames. For instance: ten minutes to get notes in order. It’s amazing how much you can get done in ten minutes.
I schedule time for exercise(or I won’t do it).
I write a realistic to-do list and don’t add anything to the list until I’ve completed everything on it.
Still, I tend to stress out. When I do, I remind myself to stay mindful of what I’m doing and forget about everything else.
Wonderful reminders. Nothing I don’t know, but I forget in the thick of a deadline. Thank you.