My Journey As A Creative Designer - Woodworking and Beyond #34: Taming the Deadline Beast

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Blog entry by Sheila Landry (scrollgirl) posted 07-07-2010 01:24 PM 5799 reads 0 times favorited 3 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 33: The Benefits of Owning Your Own Business Part 34 of My Journey As A Creative Designer - Woodworking and Beyond series Part 35: Some Ornament Pictures »

“I long to accomplish a great and noble task; but it is my chief duty to accomplish small tasks as if they were great and noble.” – Helen Keller

Deadlines are a necessary and driving force in what I do. Whether they are self-imposed or called upon by others, they are the foundation of my business and give it structure and continuity. In a perfect world, deadlines would present themselves in an organized and methodical fashion, one by one with clear starting points and stopping points. But in the real world, they are more like a littler of five week old puppies – bounding all over the place with no rhyme or reason in a pool of chaos. The trick is to clam them, organize them and eventually tame them. It can be done, but it isn’t without effort.

I found when there are several deadlines present in my life, it is best to sit back and try to take a good objective look at each one. Each individual incident seems to present itself as it is the only and most important issue that I am to deal with. If each were taken at face value, it would surely be overwhelming and cause huge amounts of anxiety. I am sure that has been the downfall of many self-employed business people. Finally, they are so overwhelmed with anxiety that they throw their hands up in exasperation and give up. I have seen this happen to many colleagues and friends who aspired to own their own businesses.

I believe the key to taming the deadline beast is organization and experience. Now I realize that experience only comes with time, but for those who are new in the business, organization is a great start. I currently have several deadlines looming. Some are self-imposed and some are external. All, I feel are important to the growth and sustaining of my business. It is amazing how sometimes that feeling of being overwhelmed begins to creep into our lives. I am fortunate that over the years (experience) I begin to recognize the signs and before it gets to me too much, I consciously stop and take a breath (or a walk or something to clear my head) and then I sit down and physically list the deadlines and put them in an order that is acceptable and workable and place a realistic time frame for completing each one. This sounds simple and mundane – and it is – but it is what I feel is necessary to stop the disorganization in my brain that doesn’t allow me to concentrate on any one at a time.

Once this list is completed I feel a huge amount of relief – almost as much relief as actually completing the task itself – and it allows my thoughts to concentrate on only the task at hand, and give it the full attention it deserves. The power of this simple process is amazing (try it, you will see!) and not only allows you the peace of mind to do your best work, but it also gives you the satisfaction of ticking the things off of your list as you complete them one by one.

I was feeling quite overwhelmed this morning. I accomplished my goal of cutting my new ornament set yesterday and I am done sanding them, (which was a delicate task) and applied the first coat of finish, but there were several more things on my list I need to do. There is another ornament set my partner made and needs help cutting, as his ‘other job’ has been extra busy. We need to present these to the wholesaler either tomorrow or today if they are to be considered for the holiday catalog. I also need to finish writing instructions on about 5-6 more new designs, as well as these ornaments and we both have to redesign our web page to reflect the new sales and free item I am offering for visitors. All this needs to be done by the end of the week (self-imposed deadline). That doesn’t even include the list of ideas of new things that I have in my head waiting to be born. I also had ideas of trying to do something for the ‘fluidity’ contest, but I just don’t know if that will happen. At this critical time in my business, I do have to put that deadline lower on the priority list, and it may become a casualty. Oh well, there is always next year. :)

Although slightly overwhelmed, I do feel very positive about things. The ornament set I did came out well. Although it is simple, it is similar in style to a set of “12 Days Of Christmas” ornaments I did last year that have been and still are good sellers. This time I did a Fretwork Nativity set with all the characters in fretwork. It is a bit more stylized than what I am used to doing, but overall I think they will do well and be nice and fun to cut. They will be a good intermediate or even beginner level project because they are very forgiving in their line work. After all the interest and messages I have received from people who are thinking of pulling out their scroll saws and giving it a try, I want to offer something that is easier and attainable for someone just starting out. Ornaments are great for that because they are like ‘mini-projects’ and far less intimidating than larger more complex ones.

So with that said, I will get to the tasks at hand. I will be posting pictures of the ornament set later on today I believe, or maybe even in the blog here tomorrow. (Some of you wanted more pictures!) We’ll see if my own methods work and how many things I can knock off of my list today. I think I will go write it right now . . . . .

Happy Wednesday! :)

-- Designer/Artist/Teacher. Owner of Sheila Landry Designs ( Scroll saw, wood working and painting patterns and surfaces. "Knowledge is Power"

3 comments so far

View BertFlores58's profile


1698 posts in 2949 days

#1 posted 07-07-2010 02:08 PM

Congratulations!! I am eager to see your beautiful work. I am sure they will be excellent. You need rest…

-- Bert

View Don Butler's profile

Don Butler

1092 posts in 3423 days

#2 posted 07-07-2010 03:19 PM

I think deadlines are a two edged sword.
I perform well with a deadline. It makes me concentrate of the job without allowing distrations to interfere.
On the other hand, having a drop dead time limit keeps me from thinking deeply about the work.
Should I have thought about the design as to whether it a the best one? Should I have improved it? Would it be more beautiful with a variation on the theme?
So I’m caught on the horns of a dilemma. Do I really do my best when working under the gun?
I’m glad I don’t ahve too many deadlines.
The gift of enough time to think and wonder about the work makes me, I think, a better craftsman.

So I have to lines on the back of my business card that address that thought.

“I don’t do housecalls.
I don’t do emergencies.”

I’m grateful for the time I have. I’ve been liberated from most of my deadlines since being retired.

Of course a broken water pipe or a leaking toilet will bring me crashing back to earth!


-- No trees were damaged in posting this message, but thousands of electrons were seriously inconvenienced.

View Sheila Landry (scrollgirl)'s profile

Sheila Landry (scrollgirl)

9231 posts in 2947 days

#3 posted 07-07-2010 03:43 PM

I agree with you Don. I don’t think they are all bad – in fact, not bad at all. Many of mine are ‘self-imposed’ and it helps me structure my day and accomplish. I have had many, many friends tell me that if they worked for themselves with no ‘taskmaster’ to speak of, they would never get anything done. I think that is true. If I didn’t have these standards of my own and impose my own deadlines, I wouldn’t have a business. The good things about your own deadlines is they are somewhat flexible. Like the other day when my friend surprised me. I just shifted things over a little bit and I did wind up working later then normal to get back on my own schedule. I could have not done that, probably with little consequence, but I really felt a sense of pride when I finished what I had to – late as it was.

Companies and the magazine can be a different situation though. I used to pay four time the cost to ship something overnight to the magazine to meet a deadline, only to find out that the ‘real, drop-dead deadline’ was weeks away. At first I was irritated with this, but I guess I understand them wanting to have all their ducks in a row too. We designers tend to do things just under the wire and rarely have stuff early to them, for many reasons. :) They are just covering their own behinds. On my last self-imposed deadline to them, I was about a week late (but that was MY time frame). In actuality, they got the box Friday and to my knowledge as of yesterday still didn’t open it. So I guess I was ‘early’ for a change! It made me look good to them and also cleared my schedule to do other things. Win/win for everyone.

We all thrive on different things. Some do better on deadlines and some don’t. I for the most part live by them because it adds structure to my business and my life. When too many are upon me at once however, I just need to take a reality check and get them in order. That is when I do my best! :) I am always planning too, and usually I am fortunate to KNOW when the deadlines are coming way before they are due. So I don’t really feel like they impair the quality of my work. If things get sticky, I will drop one or more of the disposable ones (like the contest) rather than do work that isn’t my best.

I really like your insights on it and your attitude. Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts.


-- Designer/Artist/Teacher. Owner of Sheila Landry Designs ( Scroll saw, wood working and painting patterns and surfaces. "Knowledge is Power"

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