Wick Communications

The Duke, deadlines and you

In Deadlines on May 22, 2014 at 2:56 pm

042213-national-duke-ellington

Do you work better on deadlines? I do, and I suspect that is one of the things that drew me to this business. Instinctively, I think I knew that journalism was a good place for a slightly scattered, hard working, nosy guy who didn’t always study until the all-nighter the day before the big test.

I’m in pretty good company. Take Duke Ellington. He was unquestionably one of America’s greatest composers and one of the most prolific, too. In his memoir, Music is my Mistress, Ellington wrote about his own working style. He said he didn’t long for free time in which to fold note after note into masterpieces like “Black, Brown and Biege.”

“I don’t need time,” he wrote. “What I need is a deadline.”

Deadlines have a way of focusing attention. I know I feel a sense of urgency, a physical thing, that can be either debilitating or exhilarating, depending on my surroundings and my support. Reining in that feeling is a delicate thing. So how do you make things happen on deadline without locking up like a dear in the headlights?

Keep perspective. No one ever actually died from missing a newspaper deadline. At least not that I know of. It’s important to hit deadlines; missing them is not the end of the world. Overplay the importance of a few moments and you run the risk of letting the moment overwhelm you.

Ask for help. No man is an island, particularly on deadline. Marshal your forces. Make sure everyone has an achievable goal. Work together and not at odds with one another. …

Celebrate making deadline. I don’t mean you need to adjourn to the bar with every new deadline (the way our predecessors did), but note the occasion. Thank others for their help. Include the made deadline in your staff blog. (What, you don’t have a staff blog? Oh, you know I do…)

If jazz royalty can make the most of a little pressure, so can you. Oh, and do yourself a favor. After deadline, pick up a copy of Ellington at Newport.

Clay

 

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