You’ve been here before. The weeks and months have gone by, and now you find yourself at the point where something big is due. The deadline you’ve been ignoring is now staring you in the face.
Sup, the deadline says. Did you forget about me?
You didn’t forget, of course. But you didn’t entirely take it seriously either. It was hiding out in the background, and now the background has planted itself directly in front of your desk.
Maybe other people are starting to worry. “Will she get it done in time?” “Will he finish the job?”
Truth be told, you’re a little worried too. This project has been a long time coming, and there’s still a lot to be done.
You may begin to look for an escape route. Can the deadline be changed? Maybe push it back a little?
Comforting as it may be, this line of thinking is usually a mistake. The deadline is your friend. Don’t change the deadline! Don’t push it back—push through.
So what do you do?
You enter the period known as the crunch. The crunch is the time where you focus all your time on the project at hand. Everything else falls by the wayside as you devote yourself fully to getting the job done.
How do you do it?
You make lists.
“We like lists because we don’t want to die,” Umberto Eco said.
Lists are helpful for living in general, and they’re critical in the crunch.
The deadline has crept up because you’re overwhelmed with all that needs to be done. The first task, therefore, is simple: break it down.
Your list contains everything that needs to be done for the task.
How many chapters are in your book? If you have 12 chapters, and each chapter needs to be reviewed before submitting, you have 12 tasks. Table of contents? Don’t forget that. Quick styling look-over before submission? First impressions matter.
List, list, list. Whatever your project is, make a list.
Then you start to tackle the list in full crunch mode. Item by item, task by task.
During the crunch, some well-formed habits may change. There may be pages strewn about the floor you usually keep clean. You may fall behind—way, way behind—on other commitments.
What do you eat in crunch mode? Whatever you want. Deadlines and diets do not get along well. You can detox later.
You also remember why you are doing this. Why the crunch? Because you want what’s on the other side. You’re even willing to suffer for it if necessary.
You picture the finished product. This finished product has an outcome of some kind, right?
The book on the shelf. The art that others appreciate. The music that people hear. The asset that earns income.
In the midst of a good crunch, momentum becomes a faithful companion. Giving up becomes harder than stopping. You’ve got to see this through!
Can you live your whole life in the crunch? No, not really.
Adrenaline should be harnessed and deployed at key times. Ideally you should plan for a lifetime of activity, not just a series of benders where you burn yourself out.
But once in a while, the crunch must be endured and embraced. You go through the crunch to get to the other side.