By April 16, 2014 Read More →

How I work to deadlines

Do you work to deadlines?

Work to deadlines - Fiona PhillipsOr do you wander from one fire fight to another?

Do you make a plan or do you live in happy oblivion?

Fiona Phillips writes murder mystery plays, and so knows all about how to work to deadlines.

In this guest post she shares the nuts and bolts of getting it done on time:

In my pre-child life, I was a definite wanderer but these days, I’m a converted deadliner.

I plan, I check, I juggle my children and their social life, and I plan some more. For me, it’s the only way to find a balance between work and home life, and also continue to love what I do for a living.

Here’s how I work to deadlines:

1. Brainstorm
At the start of each project, I have a brainstorm session. I write down all the things that I have to do besides working on the project.

Some tasks, such as the morning and afternoon school runs, are a must. They can’t be moved to a different time so I have to work around those two half hour slots.

Other tasks may have a deadline of their own, such as filling out my tax return. This has to be factored in to my time plan (more of that in a moment). A lot of tasks (for instance, filing or ironing) can be delayed or moved to a different part of the day.

2. Time plan
I have been writing murder mystery scripts for a living for almost two decades, so I’m fully aware of how long it will take to devise the concept for a script and then write and edit it.

If the script has come from a customer commission, then I also have the customer deadline for delivery. Looking back to my brainstorm notes, I know what else I have to fit into my day.

Keeping these details in mind, I work out a feasible time plan for the project. In this instance, ‘feasible’ means leaving myself room to breathe, eat and sleep. It also bears in mind a worst case scenario.

What if either (or both) of my children are off ill? What if I’m ill? What would I do if I had a power cut? I factor in a way to catch up if anything like this should happen.

3. Confirm and reconfirm the details
Generally, each of my scripts is born from a customer commission. Early on in the conversation with my customer, I will confirm and reconfirm the details of the project.

This includes cast, staging, theme, deadline, contact details, payment terms etc. I won’t start writing the script until these details are firmly agreed and definite.

4. Focus
I do my best to eliminate distractions while working on a project. I ensure I have everything I need to hand – notes, coffee, glasses – so I have no excuse to go looking for something.

I don’t answer the phone unless the caller is my children’s school or my husband. I have only the script open on my computer screen – no notification peeps from Facebook or my emails to drag me from my work. I concentrate completely on my writing.

5. I say ‘no’
Perhaps this is just me but in order to work to deadlines, to keep to my time plan, I have learnt to say ‘no’.

No, I can’t take the time out for a phone chat or a coffee with a friend who just doesn’t understand that working from home doesn’t mean sitting at home waiting for something to do. (But I’m free on an evening or at the weekend).

No, I can’t take on that extra job because I really don’t have the time now. I may have the time a week from now, or a month, but this moment is filled.

I don’t see it as mean or even a rejection. I’m simply being honest and asking for a little respect for the value of my time.

How do you work to deadlines?

work from home secrets

Fi writes murder mystery plays to be used as fundraisers by amateur theatre groups, schools and small charities. Her business is called Murdering The Text.

Fi has also taken and supplied the photo for her guest post.

8 Comments on "How I work to deadlines"

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  1. Thanks for posting my article, Judy.

  2. Excellent advice, especially the last point about saying no. It’s really hard when you want to build your business, but then I always end up overwhelmed.

    • Thanks for the comment, Karen. It is hard, isn’t it?

    • And then when you start to feel overwhelmed it’s so much harder to write and everything just gets magnified! I like the photo of your desk on your blog, Karen. I had a tidy-up over the Easter weekend, so I’m starting off with mine clear, but I wonder how long it will stay that way…

  3. Really need to start mastering point 5! Good advice though Fiona, thanks!

    • Yes, the pressure to ‘be nice’ can be very strong. But I think people respect you for saying no and you won’t end up alone and unloved 🙂

    • Thanks for the comment, Julie. Saying no can be hard but it takes the pressure off a lot, and it’s a sign of respect to yourself too.