I GOT to have a lovely chat with one of my favourite mums today. She works from home, in much the same field as I and we discussed the stress of a deadline.


It’s just a word. But it changes your environment, and I’m beginning to believe it wears on your psyche a tad too.

I have friends who have jobs where they can say things like “I’ll do that tomorrow”. Such a simple sentence, but it would be so redeeming to be able to say: “Nope, can’t get that front page story to you today. You should have it by mid-next week.”

Maybe in some places you can do that – in a big paper where your round consists of “networking” with officials. But in a job like mine (drawing up regional news pages, reading stories, putting on headlines, photos and captions) you’d be laughed out of the room if you deigned to tell your editor it “wouldn’t be done today”. Journalists may have the luxury of not getting an interview that day, but subeditors must still put a paper out regardless.

And I wonder how much of that urgency translates into other parts of our lives. My diary is jam-packed with lists of things to do TODAY, as if there’s no conceivable way it can wait another day. And my friend confessed she and her partner “spreadsheet” out their week’s schedule. She laughed it off, but I totally see the sense in it.

On any given day I can fit in playgroup, shopping, cleaning, bill paying, and the necessary child-minding, while the whole time thinking the following:

1)My book sales have slumped. Must send out review copies STAT.

2) My daughter is two and still not toilet-trained. Must monitor her bowel movements and begin the nappy-less phase STAT.

3) My son is becoming defiant and ignorant of my requests. Must start being firm on time-outs STAT.

4) The front yard is riddled in dog poo. Must clean it STAT.

5) Haven’t heard from Mum/Boss/Friend/New Mum. Must call them STAT.

6) It’s been a whole week since I blogged. Must think of something semi-interesting to say STAT.

7) Must organise car service/daycare enrolment/birthday party/book signing STAT.

8) Have inbox full of work emails. Must process them before they realise I haven’t read them STAT!

Fuck, it’s exhausting.

And I keep on my back as if I’m riding a useless cadet. I tick things off my list, and I put a cross next to it, if I haven’t done it (my own form of self-flagellation) and then write it in bigger letters on the next day in my diary. Maybe put a star next to it. Not like a gold star. More like a “Did you not see this last time? Honestly, I don’t know why I bother. Here. Here’s a star. Now TRY and remember to get morning tea for playgroup TODAY”.

Some days when I’m working AND minding the children and it’s going less than perfectly, I can feel my heart race. I’m sitting in an office chair and my heart races like I’ve just run a marathon (if only it had the same effect on my abdomen!).

When my heart starts to thump and my head races as I keep the hundred different thoughts in my head straight, I think of the lovely men I’ve watched in the newspaper/print industry develop heart conditions.

It’s not at all surprising really. Yes, there’s a thrill working in the media. Like the night they caught Sadam, we had to take our baby out of bed (refering to a paper that’s ready for printing, not like an actual baby!) and start again. A long night, but it was thrilling.

Putting together a newspaper is like a multi-dimensional jigsaw puzzle. So much must come together just right for it all to work and all the while the clock is ticking. But the closer you are to the bottle-neck end of a deadline, the greater the stress. How can you live life like that?

Some can’t. That’s the problem for some. They can’t switch that deadline off. A deadline makes you anxious, makes you cranky, makes you tactless when it comes to another’s incompetence.

Deadlines can encourage ambition and drive. They can make you super-efficient. It’s not all bad.

But if anyone can tell me how to stop my deadline eating into my personal life – I’m all ears! (Though may only give you 15 minutes *wink).

4 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. marketingtomilk
    Oct 01, 2011 @ 09:16:41

    I am delighted to hear of someone else who has spreadsheets.
    And I’ve never understood how anyone else gets by without a diary and a book of stuff that needs doing.
    just how do they organise their lives? You mean – they just let stuff “happen”? ugh, the thought….



    • petajo
      Oct 03, 2011 @ 03:08:50

      Exactly! Who are these people that float through life?! I have my shit in a strangle-hold pretty much 24-7.


  2. Simone
    Oct 03, 2011 @ 22:55:44

    Deadlines …. the story of our lives Peta. I love it when clients ring a week before they want something and expect to see a proof the next day … hello! Unfortunately with our jobs deadlines are always going to be lingering :I


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