General tips for not freaking out when you miss a deadline.

31 May

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.


4 Responses to “General tips for not freaking out when you miss a deadline.”

  1. Erin Bowman May 31, 2011 at 3:57 PM #

    When it comes to big deadlines, I have found that it is always best to speak up early. If you know you’re going to have troubling meeting a certain due date, tell the powers that be as soon as you foresee problems. Chances are they will be far more understanding when you give them a heads up, rather than springing a “oh hey, I don’t have this ready” email the day of. Plus, it’s just the responsible thing to do.

    • Biljana May 31, 2011 at 4:04 PM #

      Lol and now I feel like an idiot for not including that! You’re absolutely right. If you foresee problems, tell them. Even if they’re not understanding, if you end up missing it, imagine how it would’ve been if you hadn’t given them a heads up.

  2. Susan May 31, 2011 at 4:49 PM #

    Great post, Billy! I love that you could turn your tiny brain fart into a post–a GOOD post, at that!

    Deadlines are scary…I’ve never missed one before. Well, the occasional homework assignment I forgot, but nothing else.

    Now my DREAMS, on the other hand. Deadlines are constantly being missed, forgotten, destroyed. I’m going to try to remember your tips for when Dream Sooz shows up to 9th grade English having done none of her summer reading (not sure why this particular scenario appears so often).

    The most important thing (for me) is definitely the GET OVER IT factor. I’m glad you included that because it’s easy to beat ourselves up and just make the whole situation worse.

    • Biljana June 28, 2011 at 1:36 AM #

      Oh man, I’ve been out of school for like two months now and I STILL have elaborate nightmares of missing class and what that means for my grades. Scarring, let me tell you…

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