Wouldn’t it be nice if you had a focused space in which to write your book or finish your project? You often yearn for that far-off creative zone, an idyllic escape where you can focus on your work without daily distractions, tempting dates with friends and other seductive projects.
A mountain getaway would surely help you stay focused on one project. You may even replace Julie Andrews with an image of yourself, singing blissfully to the sky because you’re so tuned into the creative flow!
Sigh. Maybe you can’t escape your daily grind, but you can create what I call The Deadline Zone. This is less a place than a practice – and your ability to shut off distractions to complete projects is a key factor in your success.
Something about the word ‘deadline’ strikes fear in the hearts of many. Most people understand the urgency and focus of a deadline.
Design your deadline zone
Let’s make it easy. Three simple things can help you focus: a proclamation, a letter and a question.
Start with the proclamation: “I’m on deadline.”
‘I’m on deadline’ helps you remember your focus and commitment to the project. The Deadline Zone helps you refuse to take on tempting new projects.
Next, craft a letter letting your people know about your focus. Once you’ve told your people what you are up to prevents you having to repeat yourself again and again, with every request a need to shore up the border of your deadline zone.
I’m on deadline’ helps friends understand why you can’t hang out. This phrase can also serve as an opportunity for them to offer to help you meet your deadline. Know what kind of support serves you: home cooked meals, walks in the park, exercise dates, then ask for it.
This will also help you clarify your deadline zone for yourself. Your letter may look like this:
I want to let you know that I’m on deadline to complete my novel by April 30th and I really need to focus to pull this one off.
You can help me out. Know that I can’t meet during the day and that my writing days are Mondays and Fridays.
I won’t be taking on new projects, and you won’t see me on Facebook or Twitter as often.
My emails will be brief to save my time and yours; know that I will respond to you but it may not be immediately.
I’m excited about completing this project and commit to practices that will help me meet my deadline. Thanks for understanding and for cheering me on!
Writer, from the Deadline Zone
Your letter will be your own, and be sure to include anything that helps you meet your deadlines.
But it’s so tempting!
Alas, the world will not stop just because you’re on deadline. It seems like the minute I committed to the Deadline Zone, the many-armed temptress of opportunity arose.
I saw myself saying yes to teleclasses and interviews. Suddenly there were three pieces of business writing that need immediate revision and fun videos to make. Every day at least five new ideas spring up, trying to lure me away from the Deadline Zone.
When an opportunity arises, use this question to keep your focus: ‘How will this help me meet my deadline?’ Not ‘Will this help me achieve my deadline’ but ‘How will it help?’ This simple question makes it easy to know what role the lunch date, guest article or speaking engagement will contribute to you finishing the book.
Remember that this Deadline Zone is temporary. You’re not getting rid of the rest of your life, just prioritizing until you complete this project. Make a list of your ideas and future projects. Get skilled at prioritizing and planning projects out on your calendar.
I need to commit to the Deadline Zone on a daily basis. The Deadline Zone is less a space I’ve created and can ignore; it’s a practice of daily actions and dedication to my novel. If I remember my original impulse – get this novel into the world – it’s easier to stay steady on toward my destination.
Enjoy creating a greater sense of focus and structure with your own deadline. Say it with me: “I’m on deadline.”
Bottom line: Three steps:
- “I’m on deadline.”
- Tell your people about your deadline.
- Ask yourself: “How does this help me achieve my deadline?”
What helps you keep your Deadline Zone? Dish in a comment below.
You always knew deadlines could help, and now you know how to create a Deadline Zone that works for you. Just another atom in the creative ignorosphere.