How to stop fearing deadlines and start using them
“Doing any sort of creative work takes so much intellectual tussle that if there’s any way you can escape from it, you will.” So says Tina Brown, founder of the Women in the World Summit and former editor of Vanity Fair and The New Yorker. It’s why she asserts you need a deadline to get anything done. But that’s okay, Brown says, because some of the best work has historically been done under deadlines. In her Big Think+ video, “Leverage Urgency — Be More Creative by Embracing Deadlines,” she recasts deadlines as an invaluable tool for extracting great work
The pressure cooker of creation
Brown notes how helpful it can be to have no choice but to just get on with it. She cites acclaimed photographer Richard Avedon, whose journalism and fashion work was deadline-driven while his gallery work was more carefully considered. “His best art was actually the stuff he did for magazines,” says Brown. “There was something about the adrenaline, there was something about the discipline.”
Avedon’s not remotely the only example. Consider The Beatles, who turned out a breathtaking amount of great material from the center of a veritable whirlwind, music more electric than their later, unhurried works.
Being forced to create on schedule may be stressful, but it removes the luxury of procrastination — not to mention second-guessing oneself — leaving no time for anything but completing the task. If someone is genuinely good at what they do, the end result will be just fine, and it may even be better in ways than it would have been if all of the time in the world had been made available.
That having been said…
There are times when missing a deadline is inevitable in spite of your honest best efforts at meeting it. (Which is to say it’s not just procrastination in disguise.) In such cases, Brown recommends notifying your manager as soon as you realize you have a problem, and not at the last minute when the deadline’s upon both of you. Speaking as a legendary manager of people, Brown can say with some certainty that yours will appreciate an early heads-up. After all, that’s far easier to work with than an unpleasant last-minute surprise.