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This is where I share occasional musings on all things type, design, and business.
Hi, I'm Jen Wagner

The last 8 weeks have been pure madness.

We built and launched a completely redesigned website on a completely different platform, with new licensing, quizzes, marketing, branding — everything.

AND. Launched a new digital mockups business four days later.

I have always had a habit of setting really intense deadlines to motivate myself to get things done (I rarely get anything done without a deadline). So I end up working at a feverish pace for a few months until the project is wrapped up and I wake up in a haze, completely burnt out.

From the outside, busy times like this can look like a creative ideal — spending long hours investing your heart and soul into the thing you love. But honestly, the last 2 months were too much, and I regret using hard deadlines to motivate myself to get it all done.

Here’s why: While deadlines are great motivators, your body takes a long time to get the memo once the deadline has passed.

The energy it’s creating to keep up doesn’t just regulate again. You’re still humming at that same frequency long after the deadline has passed.

It’s like hitting a tuning fork really hard, and expecting it to just stop ringing as soon as you say, “Hey! We launched! We don’t have to keep this vibration happening! Deadline’s passed! We did it!”

It doesn’t work that way. Your body and mind will keep operating at that level of energy until it naturally regulates again.

This inevitably creates anxiety, when all that energy suddenly has nowhere to go. And who suffers? Your body, your family, your mind (all of which are infinitely more valuable than anything we work on).

I get that it’s complicated (believe me), especially when those deadlines represent taking care of your family. There are exceptions to the rule.

But for many of us self-employed creatives, our deadlines are often self-imposed and set at such an ideal rate of productivity, they weren’t even possible to hit in the first place without sacrificing our quality of mind, soul, and life.

So here’s what I’d do differently next time:

1. View deadlines as ideas, not plans.

Things will inevitably take longer than expected, hit roadblocks, or come up against days where you just don’t have “it”. When your deadline is an idea and a target rather than a set-in-stone plan, you give yourself the flexibility to take care of yourself while still pushing toward a goal. Give it room to breathe and flex.

Plus, if you’re working with other people, this gives them room for things to go wrong and not fear the wrath of the deadline. You have space for things to go wrong and flexibility to make it right again.

2. Add 50-70% to the date I think I “should” have it finished (especially if you’re setting a public launch date).

This means if I think a new site “should” take 6 weeks to build, I should give it at least 9-10 weeks to get done. That way, when milestones are missed or pushed back, we are still able to plan properly to make sure everything gets finished by the launch date.

Best case scenario: you have a finished product you can either launch early, or build hype with something that is actually done and stress free, rather than getting wrapped up at the 11th hour.

3. Allow yourself to change your mind.

This is tricky, because launching things when you said you would builds trust with your audience.

But honestly? I wish I had just emailed everyone and said, “Hey, this is too much for me right now and I’m really sorry, but we’re pushing this launch back 2 weeks.”

The likelihood is that just about everyone would have said, “All good! You’re doing a great job!” Because we’re all in the same boat and we all TOTALLY get it.

But I was scared to go back on what I said I’d do, so I pushed through it. Am I glad it’s all done? YES. But it wouldn’t have cost me much to push things back, and I may have been able to get through this in a more complete state.

So next time you have a big project you want to get wrapped up, take a step back and give yourself ACTUAL time to get it done in a way that feels good for your body, soul, mind (and your team!!). The likelihood is that giving it a few more weeks (or even months) won’t be detrimental, and it’s well worth coming out the other side whole and with enough energy to be excited about what you’ve made.

Jen

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