As creative individuals of an ever growing ad industry, we’ve all had that night. A night when everything else is put on the back burner, you make 10 pots of coffee, put on some good old techno music and you come to a realization that after meeting this deadline, the rest of your life will be a walk in the park. After meeting that deadline, however, you’ll last about a couple of months and the cycle will repeat itself on another occasion. But, have you ever stopped to ask yourself why that is? Is it your inability to focus and be efficient that one day things just pile up? Could it be the substantial amount of compensation which ultimately overpowers the reasoning as to why 8 hours of sleep are considered healthy? Or is it possible that someone is imposing that deadline on you and that your reaction of throwing a hissy fit might just cost you the job?
It could be reasoned that deadlines are just a part of life. Think about it. You’ve been groomed to meet them ever since you were a child. Handing in your assignments before the due date, completing that volcano for the science fair, pulling off all-nighters to write essays, registering for post-secondary on time—the list goes on. Going through all of these scenarios, you probably considered the consequences of failing to meet a deadline. Waiting a year just because you failed to register for post-secondary in a program which only starts in the Fall would be a good way to waste your time. This is serious stuff we’re talking about here.
Coming into this specific industry where we churn out creative solutions for our clients, it’s expected of us as creative individuals to thrive in tight deadlines. But, is that too much to ask of us? I mean the daily dose of caffeine does its part, but it’s not really enough to keep the project account reps off our backs. Meeting a deadline keeps the project managers/account reps happy, which puts them in a positive state of mind that strengthens your work relationship. The client is thrilled to be getting what they asked for on time, the monthly invoice gets accounted for, the agency makes a profit, and you get a raise (well not right then and there, but eventually).
Deadlines aren’t that bad at all, now that you think about it. Speaking from personal experience, my life lines are my deadlines. If I didn’t have any deadlines or goals, I wouldn’t be motivated to work. On numerous occasions, I’ve put something on the back burner simply because no one wanted to be rigid enough in setting a deadline in stone. The world to me seems simple enough as to why it operates the way it does if you put this principle to the test. Having no deadlines means that no one is motivated to put in the effort to get something done. If nothing gets done, nothing is accomplished. The world stops turning. Ok, that’s being a bit sarcastic, but what that implies is that productivity itself is halted.
That’s the basics of the domino effect of failing to meet a deadline. Now, let’s back track and look at why we sometimes go through those dreadful all-nighters. It all really boils down to someone giving you that deadline and not providing enough of a heads up, so to speak. Generally speaking, that’s the predicament. But how do you go about avoiding these instances in which you’re the one doing the work as opposed to someone else? Well, chances are that you’re what they call officially as a “senior” in a team of individuals who not only takes a bigger piece of the pie in terms of compensation but also recognizes the need for someone to accept those responsibilities at a cost. The other possibility is that you’re stuck doing spec work all night to meet a deadline that even Noah himself would consider preposterous in comparison. There are other possibilities. One of them just might be that it’s the way things worked out. Either that or you’ve been promised a hefty reward in Starbucks gift cards.
But can we fix it? And what’s really broken that needs fixing anyway? We can always look at the amount of work which is on someone’s plate at any given time and schedule it in according to adequate workloads. Having reasonable deadlines when scheduled in means that creatives everywhere can breathe a bit easier, explore/approach a problem with multiple solutions and come back with a quality of work that isn’t degraded and rushed. Perhaps spec work isn’t the right option and focusing on our existing work is. If our work is good enough, people might take notice and come to us for creative solutions. It’s rare but it does happen, and, frankly, it’s a better option than taking on an immeasurable amount of stress to present a piece of spec work when there are no guarantees in receiving a green light. Don’t forget about that client who took 6 months to respond to your email and expects a turnaround of 2 days in a heartbeat. If they’ve waited 6 months, they can wait 2 more weeks, if you choose.
If the picture is starting to become clear that deadlines are here to stay, grab on to something because it’s an ugly truth. It’s a bumpy ride, but it’s the people who interface with the clients on a daily basis that have the power to cushion the effects of the speed bumps along the way by pushing back deadlines and adjusting timelines to fit your workloads in this particular industry. If all else fails, consider a hissy fit. But by now, you should have a pretty clear grasp of the consequences involved should you decide to throw one.