Deadlines: Vital Aspects of Academic Careers and Publishing Activities
Deadlines, it would seem, are incredibly fashionable. We all have them, after all, some of us far more than we can afford, and many of us are eager to introduce them into every conversation. Yet our relationship seems, for the most part, a love–hate connection. There are those who truly love deadlines and find in their looming shadows the brightest inspiration, but they are rare creatures. More common is the sort of ambivalent attachment expressed by Douglas Adams: ‘I love deadlines. I like the whooshing sound they make as they fly by.’
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Many deadlines are necessary, of course, while others are self-imposed, though those too, most of us would argue, are necessary. Deadlines, after all, serve as negative inspiration and help us organise our busy lives for maximum productivity. Academics and scientists are certainly no laggards when it comes to setting deadlines – they often have to do so for themselves, their assistants, their students and sometimes for their colleagues as well. Amidst busy careers of teaching and administrative work, most scholars would be hard pressed to find time for research and publication without self-imposed deadlines. Rushing to meet deadlines is not, however, the best of ways to ensure quality research and writing, though for some authors at certain moments in time, it can be. Hastily writing something for a deadline may, for instance, mean no opportunity to second guess initial lines of thought, and provided there is enough time for a quick proofread and edit, this can be productive.
More reliable as a strategy, however, is arriving at deadlines at a slower pace through careful planning and use of your time. Most writing intended for publication, for instance, benefits from reflection and editing before it is submitted, so finishing your draft a week before the deadline is preferable to finishing it the night before that deadline. This is to say that deadlines have the best chance of serving their purposes successfully if planning ahead is an important part of the deadline-setting process. A useful plan requires a realistic view of the work to be done and the time available in which to do it, and that, believe it or not, is often the most difficult part of careful planning. A general principle to keep in mind is that almost everything will take more time than expected, and some things will unfold differently than one imagines. Anticipating potential complications and the time that can be nibbled away by details is vital when preparing an effective plan, and recording your plan as you develop it will not only initiate a project but also save time and labour as the project progresses.
Carefully planned and anticipated deadlines are a good thing, then, and certainly they are essential when you are in the business of writing, proofreading and editing scholarly text. Given how little time our many deadlines seem to leave for other activities, however, it is encouraging to know that they can also be considered, according to author Jarod Kintz, a valid substitute for exercise: ‘People always ask me if I’m into sports, and I say, “Well, isn’t writing a sport? If you’re doing it right, and you have a deadline, you should be sweating.”’
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