Mailbag: Dealing With Deadlines

Q: So far, I have been given deadlines ranging from one hour to a few hours. Because I have so little time to work on projects compared to what I'm used to, I am usually not happy with the results. Can you please give me some advice on how to handle it all?
- Emely, a MAIP summer intern at JWT NY

A: First off, go in earlier and stay later.

This business is all about timeliness. You have to be quick. But you also have to be good. It's sometimes hard to manage the two. So when necessary, ask for a little more time. Don't do it too often, but if you think having another hour or two would make a significant difference to the quality of work, say that.

If you have several projects, try to prioritize and see which ones you can ask for more time on so you can focus on being really great when it really matters. Time management is your responsibility but if you need help/advice on what is most important, ask a project manager or your supervisor.

Honestly, some of the deadlines are probably stricter than they need to be because you're an intern. It's part them testing you and part them not trusting you. They need to see what you can do and need time for someone else to fix it if you mess up. (But don't tell anyone I told you that.)

Ask nicely and say in order to do quality work and prevent several rounds of revisions, you're going to need more time up front. Which is saving time overall because it means you can get it right the first go.

If you meet the deadline then find you have time, revise the piece later into to something you like more. This is good because you now have a piece you can use in your book that you feel good about. And you can submit it again and say you took more time and thought this was better because of xyz reasons. See if they'll take that instead or as well. Then you can say for the next round, if I have more time, I can do something really great like the one I redid that time. You've set a precedent now that more time = better work and they're more likely to trust you and try to get you more time.

However some times, you're going to have to just suck it up, work through lunch, ignore Facebook and put the pedal to the metal to produce something good in little to no time. It happens to everyone from time to time. Just take a deep breath and focus.

Put your all into every project. No matter how small or stupid it may seem. If you do good with small + stupid you'll graduate to medium + alright and eventually get to big + exciting. And that is why you got into this business, right?

Now get back to work.