This post is written by a member of the Debut Student Publisher Network. Struggling with deadlines and feel like you can’t bounce back? It’s not too late, according to Zaki:
It’s happened to lots of us over the years. You get behind with a piece of work and then realise that you won’t get it in on time or, at least, not to an acceptable standard.
Whether it’s at university or at work, when you miss a deadline, you can find it difficult to catch up and stay positive. So what do you do?
Don’t dwell on it too much
Remember that it’s happened and there’s nothing you can do to change the past. When these things occur, I find that it’s all too easy to go into a decline, put it off and make more of a psychological mountain for yourself. The longer you leave it, the harder it’ll be to get back up to speed.
Tell yourself that it won’t make or break your degree classification or employment status. Undergraduates on essay-based courses are likely to submit 15 to 30 summative essays during the course of their degree. A late submission penalty is typically 10 marks. Broadly speaking, missing one essay deadline is likely to affect less than 0.5% of your overall mark. A good piece of work can be more than 10 marks better than a rushed one.
In a work context, it depends what the deadline was. Hopefully it won’t have too much of an impact on the company, and wasn’t in your first couple of weeks in the job. Always work extra hard to make a good first impression. Either way, the key is the recovery, making sure that you use your extra time to ensure it’s good but also don’t get behind with other work. How you respond and convey what happened is also important.
Communication, communication, communication – early!
Apologise to your line manager and explain why you don’t think you’ll be able to get it done on time. This shows you understand the implications for them or other colleagues who may have to do extra to make up for it. Did you find it challenging? Have you got any personal issues which have made it hard to focus or find time lately? The more communication, the better, but don’t make anything up.
Crucially, contact them to let them know you may struggle to make the deadline as early as possible. Give them a heads-up as early as you can so they have time to see if someone else can help. At the very least, doing this will manage their expectations. The last thing managers want is to only find out that a piece of work isn’t completed the moment it’s due in.
Obviously it can be different with academia, where late submissions carry automatic penalties. But apply for an extension if you have a valid reason to. Similarly, do it nice and early to allow yourself enough time to get the assignment done on time if the request is rejected.
Also, top tip: get help or advice from your personal tutor. And most importantly, don’t rely on the assumption that your extension will be granted or race to Netflix to celebrate though. There’ll be plenty of time for that once you’ve handed your work in.
Learn from your mistakes and make sure it doesn’t happen again
Remind yourself how stressed you got when fretting over missing that deadline. How you missed dinner. How you had to turn down the chance to go to the pub for a drink with your closest friends. Or a spare ticket to see your favourite band play. Use that to motivate yourself to start earlier next time, and to avoid distractions, whether that involves turning your phone off or working in the library rather than at home.
Also make sure not to take too much on. Whether that’s constantly offering to do bits of your colleagues’ work for them to be helpful or signing up to too many extra-curricular activities at university. Involvement in societies, sports clubs and student media can be great. But prioritise one or two groups and find a balance. Where you can, let committee colleagues know in advance that you’ll be bogged down with essays and therefore out of action during a particular week. And don’t offer to do things you won’t have time to do. That will risk letting them down too.
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by Biljana Likic
This post is very, very late. In a bout of supreme intelligence, I didn’t check the May calendar, and there’s no way I signed up to post on the last day anyways, right?
Well…turns out I’m an idiot. On this blog we schedule articles for midnight EST. It is now past 3:00pm. A good fifteen hours after I was supposed to have posted.
So let’s talk about deadlines!
Some are casual, like little personal goals that would be nice to accomplish by the end of the week, but aren’t urgent. Others are a little more time-sensitive, like having a post ready for the next day, but after a bit of flurry and upset you can easily get back on your feet. Then you have the ones, like handing in your manuscript on time, that if you miss, it can put you months and months behind schedule, possibly pushing your publication date further into the distance, and make you lose some credibility as a responsible and punctual person.
But in reality, nobody’s going to kill you. There can be bad consequences; you can lose a very good opportunity. But when it comes down to it, nobody will kill you for missing a deadline. [/Pun about deadlines not actually being dead]
So if you’ve missed a deadline, the first thing to do is:
DON’T PANIC. Nothing makes your brain shut down faster than panic. I know. I panicked when I saw my name on the calendar and realized it was 2 in the afternoon and I had no idea what to write about. Instead, try to see what you can salvage from the situation. Think up some pros that can come out of it. For example, I got this lovely post idea when I sarcastically remarked to Savannah that I should write about deadlines. Lo and behold…
DON’T GIVE UP. More than once, I’ve had this happen:
“Where’s your essay? It’s been a week.”
“I didn’t finish on time. You said you wouldn’t accept it if it were late.”
“Well I won’t now, but if you’d given it to me the day after I would’ve just docked a few marks. Now you get a zero.”
(Just typing that reminds me of how frustrating it is.)
You don’t know that the thing you’re late for won’t accept the late admission. Even when it specifically says you’re disqualified if you’re late (or something similar), you don’t know if they will actually act on it. If you had extenuating circumstances beyond your control, maybe they’ll make an exception for you. Maybe they said “No late applications” because they anticipated a hundred, but really only got a few dozen, and so they’d be willing to accept your slight lateness rather than lose a lot of money or prestige by having a program only half full. Now, this doesn’t always work. Sometimes they say no lateness and they mean no lateness, even in extreme cases. But you don’t know if you give up.
RELAX. Similar to DON’T PANIC, but in a different way. Especially if it’s something trivial, don’t let lateness stress you out if there’s nothing you can do about it. If you need to take the bus downtown, give yourself time to do so. If the bus breaks down and you end up waiting for an hour with no taxi money, that’s not your fault. Call the person you were supposed to meet and explain the situation. More often than not, they’ve also had public transport screw them over at some point. If you talk to them in a considerate way that makes clear that you know it inconveniences them when you’re not on time, they’ll probably just slot you into a later spot.
GET OVER IT. This one’s a bit harder. I’m still kicking myself over those essay scenarios. There’s regret I feel over things that happened years ago. And to be honest, regret is okay to have, because it can help you take new opportunities more seriously. But if you have so much regret, and you’re so bummed out that can’t focus on your next deadline, it starts impacting your work. Get past it as quickly as you can so that you can produce stellar works for other things, and not end up late for those as well.
Try and remember these. Even agents can be understanding. Even publishers aren’t evil. As the hierarchy grows, missed deadlines become a bigger issue, but at the end of the day, nobody will kill you. Do your best, and figure out your own methods of time management. If sometimes they fail, don’t panic, don’t give up, relax, and get over it. Regain their trust by continuing to be punctual with everything else.
And, as always, better late than never.
Biljana Likic is an aspiring author, currently revising her first novel, TIME IS A FUNNY THING. She’s going into her second year of university, where she can’t wait till she’s out so she’ll finally have all the time in the world to write. You can visit her blog and follow her on Twitter.
Tags: Biljana Likic, Writing Tips