Deadline Diva

In high school I waited until the last minute before doing anything.

Lori Welbourne, On a Brighter Note

 

In high school I waited until the last minute before doing anything.

School projects that I had weeks to prepare for were done the night before they were due.

And I would never crack a book to study for a test unless the exam was the very next day. Back then I was accused of being an underachiever. Now I think of myself more as deadline-driven rather than under-achieving.

Years ago I was selling advertising for a local newspaper and creating more work for myself than I felt I could keep up with. I complained to a psychologist friend about how I had carried the same bad habits I had in school into adulthood and was still doing everything at the last minute.

“Is that working for you?” he asked me.  I had to think for a minute before answering that question honestly. My answer, in the end, was yes, most of the time.

“A lot of people work better under pressure and can accomplish more when they’re under the gun like that,” he said. “You sound like you’re one of them.”

I thought about his observation and had to agree. After that I created new, earlier deadlines based on the old ones, thinking I would fool myself into getting things done sooner. I figured it would ease the stress, but it didn’t always work.

For example, if I gave myself the deadline of Monday to write my column knowing deep down that I really have until Tuesday… guess when that column would still be written? You guessed it – on Tuesday.

“Shouldn’t you have a few generic articles in the can?” many of my friends have asked. Yes, yes I should. I actually tried that once. It was almost two years ago when I started writing this column and I had four already written and illustrated in order to pitch them to the editor of the newspaper I was working at.

Once it was picked up and the first column ran, the second one was published the next week, followed by the third and fourth in subsequent weeks. Suddenly the deadline for the fifth column arrived and I was scrambling that morning to write the darn thing. I’ve been writing on deadline like that ever since.

And that’s how I operate with almost everything else as well, which is why I always find myself madly shopping on Christmas Eve for everything on my list. Without a looming deadline coming to a head and driving me into action, I seem to find a hundred other things to keep me busy until it finally does.

So what’s next on the horizon for me? With one major deadline behind me and another one coming up in several hours, I think it’s time for a break. There’s a certain amount of balance that needs to be struck when you’re an under-achieving, deadline-driven individual.

Lori Welbourne is a syndicated columnist. You can contact her at loriwelbourne.com.