How I Got Rid of Deadlines Once and For All
Working as a freelancer with zero deadlines on my list
A freelancer who doesn’t know the value of a deadline is a bad one. He is also not going to last for a long time in the world where you, me, and my brother’s neighbor are working remotely.
I’ve known the worth of a deadline for a few years already. It is pretty simple. You don’t make it on time = you don’t make it. After being paid for casually looking through Buzzfeed from time to time (guilty), I left my office job around six years ago and never looked back.
I’ve always loved writing and I was lucky enough to discover it when I was young. I tempted my luck by making a detour around law school in France but I came back to writing through trial and error.
Without trial. I never made it to actual court as a lawyer.
What do I write about? Anything. You give me any subject and I will study it and I will fall in love with it. I will give your text all I have. I will write about making phallic symbols out of polymer clay or about the functioning of electrical substations in the ex-USSR. Both will get me into the flow and I will enjoy them equally.
Of course, I have a few subjects where I am an expert and that make my portfolio as a content creator.
However, if something new comes along, I will pour all my love into studying the subject, playing with synonyms, asking for feedback, editing… Long story short, I’ve found what I can do every day for the rest of my life and have fun along the way. Most of the time.
There is one thing I hate about writing and it is the dreaded ‘deadline’. On good days I ‘die’ quite a few times and I don’t mind — I sincerely enjoy large amounts of work.
I nod and smirk when I read jokes about phantom deadlines. This word is permanently around me: in my head, on the wall in front of my desk, on my agenda, my phone, and in my personal goals. I have also used it more than once to, you know… get out of plans I once was very enthusiastic about but then the day came.
For example, instead of going on a run with a good-looking boy, I can always say: “Sorry, I have a deadline” and be very-hard-to-get-busy-working-woman instead of red, sweaty, and most likely not as fit as him.
Boys aside, I decided to get rid of deadlines and make them dead do me. Bury them, be done with them. My first idea was to pack my surfer shorts and take a flight to Goa, where I would probably get dreadlocks and never look at a calendar again. Coronavirus and a reality check interfered with my plans, so I declared a war on deadlines in my Parisian apartment, hair untouched.
What I quickly figured out was that I didn’t like the word itself. The ‘dead’ part especially.
Who dies at that line? We don’t know what happens on the other side yet but some of us want to believe that it’s not just a full stop at the end of the text. I want my work to live beyond hitting “send”.
I made it my challenge to find a synonym. Things we say to ourselves matter and the words we use have an effect on our brains, whether we like it or not.
I was on a quest for a beautiful alternative that would take my finished projects to a new level, beyond the line. Whatever it is I make with a final date in mind, I want it to keep living even after it’s done on my side. A line at the end of the tunnel perhaps?
While I was brainstorming for synonyms, my Mother was busy with something else. I shared my linguistic discomfort with her and the answer came right away. I’ll just quote her:
“You know, Agile Planning. The book I’ve been telling you about. Absolutely anything you complete or you plan to do is a victory. An achievement. It is a unique story. Your life is not a pile of dead lines, your life is a compilation of victories.
Basically, anything falls into the theory where you are the author of your own life who is writing YOUR story. You are not a victim of any lines, especially the dead ones”.
If it was a movie, this would be the A-HA moment.
I’ve lived thousands of miles from home for the last 13 years. Once I arrived at my parents’ place after a few months away. My Mom made a protein shake to welcome me.
Talking about deadlines the moment I realized she was busy reading about Agile Planning instead of cooking.
“Mom … Maybe, it should just be “win” instead of “dead”?
Winline. I have nine victories planned for today. Nine wins. You can also add an ‘e’ and celebrate with wine. I don’t drink but for me somehow ‘wine’ symbolizes an attitude to the celebration, not a hangover. This is what living in France does to you.
This is how I buried all the dead lines. When a runner crosses the finishing line, he is a winner. He is either on the pedestal with a medal or he has completed the race. Nobody dies.
Why on Earth would MY line be the dead one?
Lesson learned: listen to your Mom when she recommends something.
I am going to dust off the book on Agile Planning and finally read it. Winline: end of the week.