Today's Creative Business Diary is simple and straightforward: Deadlines. Or, as the always inspiring Mary Anne Radmacher lovingly calls them - Targeted Completion Dates. Whatever term works for you - deadlines, due dates, targeted completion dates, or The Day to Be Officially Done With a Task - I am a firm believer in sticking to them.
Before I transitioned into full-time licensing with Swirly, it was a 1200+ account independent greeting card business with 20+ reps around the country. Some of my most vivid memories of the day-to-day upkeep of this business were moments when a rep would thank me for paying them on time. I always found that an extraordinary thing to be thanked for, since all I felt like I was doing was running my business professionally. In other words, all I was doing was my job. My reps sent me orders everyday and kept my business running, and my job was to pay them for their services. On time.
Being on time and meeting deadlines is one of those areas of life and business that is simple in concept but for some reason challenging in the day-to-day. Procrastination, resistance, and just plain laziness can potentially derail the best laid plans for finishing a task or project and then having the freedom to move on to other things. I can't claim to have met every single deadline I've been given and there have been plenty of jobs I've put off until the last minute. But I take due dates seriously for three simple reasons:
* Extending targeted completion dates only prevents me from moving on to other jobs, projects, and even wide open afternoons to spend outside. Moving a due date farther down the calendar might give me more time for whatever work needs to be completed, but it also takes time away from other work or time off.
* With particular regard to creative work, turning in and finishing work on time means I can let it go. If I have done my work to the best of my ability, then a deadline marks the moment I have permission to release it to the world (or an editor or art director), and after that, it is out of my hands. For a more poetic expression of this concept, read this.
* Remember when I shared the story of my reps thanking me for paying them on time? They thanked me because most of their clients did not pay them on time. I've found that by being on time, meeting deadlines, and turning in work when it is due, I stand out. Apparently being on time is the exception and not the rule. Because of this, it usually isn't too long with a new client or colleague before I am acknowledged as someone who is reliable. In business and in life, this is one of those small details that can be a big contributor to success, not only because of how it reflects upon me, but also because it enables me to avoid the stress and anxiety of a extending deadlines and having certain work and tasks continue to loom over me - work that could have been finished and released.
You could try to trick yourself into getting things finished on time with rewards like a day off or a cupcake, but I've found that the more effective long term approach to punctuality is to consider a job well done the reward. Whether paying vendors, turning in a project, or posting a guest blog entry - do it as well as you can, and do it on time. This commitment alone will strengthen the foundation of your business and put you ahead of the curve.
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