Writing under a Deadline: Five Tips, Maybe Six
A deadline is useful,
especially for those projects that would otherwise never wrap up. But it can also turn the most stalwart of us into quivering jelly, whether the deadline looms in an hour, a day, or a week.
Breathe! Here are five tips for managing a deadline--and, as you will see below, possibly a sixth to consider.
Do you have other techniques to beat a deadline? Let me know what works for you or other questions you have.
Understand the assignment before you start. Don't bolt like a horse leaving the starting gate. Yes, every minute is precious, but do you really understand what is required--the topic, the length, the tone, and other elements? Taking the extra time to clarify up front may save you hours in the long term.
Divide the time into pieces. In Writing with Power, Peter Elbow describes two stages of every writing project: first, a creative stage when you throw ideas on paper and second, a critical stage when you tighten up and revise. Divide the time allotted--whether it's two hours or two days--so you have time for both stages.
Have "boilerplate" at hand, ready to plug in. Many workplace projects are composed of at least some repetitive pieces, such as the template and explanation about your organization in a press release, the criteria for the award presented at every year's conference, or the CEO's bio. Have these pieces written and in an easy-to-retrieve place on your computer, for quick insertions.
Parcel out the details. Your colleague observes your frazzled state and asks if she can help. "Nothing, I'm fried!" you cry. But wait, what about doing some of the fact-checking for you? Finding out full names or affiliations or URLs? Maybe you can delegate a few time-consuming tasks without compromising overall flow.
Solve one small problem at a time. At some point, you need to get a cup of coffee, go to the bathroom, get some sleep. As you leave your computer, think of one small piece of the assignment that is giving you a hard time. Not the whole thing. Swirl it inside your head as you take a walk. No guarantee, but chances are you'll have a solution when you return to your computer.
And the possible last one--Ask for an extension? An extension is only occasionally the answer. Many deadlines are fixed. Even if they're not, you don't want to gain a reputation as a deadline-shirker. But if the deadline is artificial, and the need for more time to complete the assignment well is real, you may want to ask for a fixed amount of extra time.
Oral History for Many Purposes
Last week, I attended the spring conference of Oral History in the Mid-Atlantic Region. Presenters explained how they use oral history to document aspects of this year's theme, which was on science, technology, and innovation.
Even without formal oral history programs, many organizations would benefit from interviewing employees, members, customers, or others for their archives. Consider circumstances like these:
- You are moving into a new building and want to capture some of the significant events that took place in the old building;
- People with a lot of institutional knowledge (or wild stories!) are retiring;
- You will celebrate a milestone anniversary in the next few years.
Books (a classic is Doing Oral History
by Donald Ritchie), organizations like OHMAR and the larger Oral History Association
, and workshops all teach the basics. For example, those interviewed must sign a release or deed of gift before an interview is recorded.
As explained by the Oral History Association, Oral history refers both to a method of recording and preserving oral testimony and to the product of that process. It begins with an audio or video recording of a first person account made by an interviewer with an interviewee (also referred to as narrator), both of whom have the conscious intention of creating a permanent record to contribute to an understanding of the past.
OHA also has good articles about principles and best practices on its website.