Tuesday, February 8, 2011

The Secret to Surviving a Crazy Deadline

Chronos, King of Deadlines and Missed Buses

As professional artist, you will have deadlines. That is a truth that cannot really be escaped, unless you are so famous that people are willing to wait however long it takes (ala one of Seal's heroes, Yuri Norstein and his wife). But for most of us, we face deadlines, either by having to get work delivered by a certain date for a gallery show, or overnight deadlines for newspaper illustrations, etc. etc. How to survive?

Well, let's rule out avoiding the crazy deadline in the first place. Whether you procrastinated too much, or life happened, or your client is sorta nuts and expects miracles, you're in this situation and that's that.

So, what do we do? First things first is to figure out a plan. While it may seem counter-intuitive to take a quick breather and map out a game plan, this step is crucial. Seal is great at this, which makes Monkey very grateful to have her, since he tends to take action before thinking at times. Planning your course of action is very important, since time is not on your side, you want to be as efficient as possible.

By figuring out all the steps you have to take, you can figure out your priorities, and create a flowchart of action items. For something like silkscreen, figuring out a proper flowchart can save you hours of time. Since the bottlenecks in the printing process usually revolve around waiting for the screens to dry, you have to constantly jump back and forth in the process to maximize your time. If there is a part of the process that can't be sped up (ie. paint drying, etc.) try to do other things that might take you a long time that can be done in any order while that's happening (ie. going out and buying a frame, or writing up price sheets, etc.).

At the top of your priority list should be any extra materials you might need. If you can make sure that you won't run out of some crucial supply ("Nooooo, I'm out of cyan ink and it's 3am!!"), you'll save yourself crazy amounts of stress. Also, it'll help you overall as you won't get distracted with a sudden stop due to lack of materials. You want to make getting the work done as streamlined as possible.

Now that you've got your plan of action, Monkey + Seal recommend grabbing a quick snack. Monkey prefers Cliff Bars (the Blueberry ones are pretty awesome). Carbs or sugars are generally a great way to go, as you want to make sure that your blood sugar is high. You're going to probably be working harder and faster than usual, so you want to make sure that you have some readily accessible energy. Nothing is worse than going at it and then suddenly have your energy just tank on you. Also, in order to keep from crashing, it's a good idea to snack here and there if time permits to keep that blood sugar as stable as possible. Make sure you're staying hydrated - it'll help to prevent headaches and will aid in digestion.

Next - make sure that you can get rid of as many distractions as possible. If you can, turn off the phone. Close all the extraneous blog windows and social media sites. Get off twitter and facebook. Turn on some music (if you work well with music) or turn it off (if you need silence) and get some earplugs. The least amount of stuff you have vying for your attention the easier it'll be to stay focused and work more efficiently.

Finally, (here comes the hard part,) you get down to work.

There. You've somehow managed to survive another crazy deadline, and it's time for some well-deserved rest (hopefully). Now you can use the knowledge gained from this experience to make next time a bit easier. The more knowledge you have about your working habits (how long it takes to paint a 16x20 landscape, or how much ink you need to make 50 prints, etc.) the better you can plan for the future. Congratulations!

No comments: