Ah, nothing pushes the Panic Button like the fabled rush job. Because nothing challenges our belief in the value of a considered design process like turning a week’s worth of work around in 24 hours. So with such a short timeframe to get so much done, how do we best prepare ourselves to take on the task at hand?
1. Look at the logistics
No one ever pulled off a successful late night heist without a plan. Plan everything.
Look at the task from all angles. If you’ve only got 24 hours to turn around a project, you’ll probably be working late into the night. No one wants to be contacted at 10pm with you on the other end of the line hanging out for information. Do you need to liaise with someone? Do you need to prep a printer? Make sure you schedule that during business hours.
Plan your hands-on creative work for a time period when you won’t be interrupted. Plan where you’ll be so you can make sure your internet connection is up to sending those sizable files. Plan what you’re eating so it’s ready to grab and go. This is all about efficiency. The only thing you shouldn’t be planning on is having a social life. Cancel on Steak Night. They’ll understand.
2. Slash and grab
Prioritise. First and foremost, what do you need to make the project work? Start with the bare bones. Just get them done. Do not make anything that is not essential in those initial stages. If you’re some kind of speedy-turnaround superhero and you find yourself with excess time, that’s when you can start finessing.
On that note, spend more time on the presentation than the kerning. The kerning can be tweaked in a spare couple of minutes – your rationale can’t. Explain first, finesse later. Feeling like a failure because you’ve spent twenty minutes flicking back and forth between the Calibre bold and the Open Sans semi-bold? Stop it. You’re being ridiculous. They both work. Pick one. Chances are, it’s always better than you think. Stress less about leading and more about concept.
3. Higher your standards
On less of a superficial level and more of an actual quota level. Make everything standard. PDF? Standard. Printing? Standard. Typography? Just make it work. Get a combination going that doesn’t require a paste up. You’re not a specialist right now and no one is expecting you to be. You’re juggling multiple balls at high speed, like some kind of sadistic circus race. Put your game face on and focus on the juggle.
4. Don’t stop, never give up (hold your head high and reach the top)
Ah, Dory, you beautiful tropical fish. The Finding Nemo favourite said it best: Just keep swimming swimming swimming. Stuck on something? Move onto another task and come back to it. It will still be there in an hour and you won’t have lost valuable time to staring at a page. Plus there’s a lot of value in looking at something with fresh eyes. Working on that other task may just be the inspiration you need.
This applies to all the challenges you might come across. Your hard drive spontaneously combusted. Your cat ate your mouse. Your “S” key has mysteriously stopped working. Don’t panic. This is what you’ve been training for. You’re going to take a deep breath, MacBook MacGyver your way out of it, and keep going. Against all odds, you’ve got this.
5. For the love of Garamond, do not procrastinate
Seriously. Don’t do it. It’s hard, everything is distracting, you’re trapped in a Wikipedia spiral. You never knew just how interested you were in Spanish tapestry weaving in the 18th Century until now. It’s just so fascinating. But those silky threads will still be there tomorrow. They’ve been there for the last 300 years, after all. But it’s go time. You need to focus.
Set yourself a mini-timeline and break it down into timeslots. You need to be at 85% productivity. That’s 50 minutes of every hour. Work for an hour and a half, then reward yourself with a guilt-free 20 minute social media/sewing/snacking break. And don’t go over your time limit. Much like high school, you need to be back in class by the time the bell goes or you’ll land yourself a lunchtime detention. Except a lunchtime detention is now less about picking up rubbish in the schoolyard and more about missing a deadline and damaging your professional reputation. Swings and roundabouts?
6. Keep it in perspective
The most important thing you can do here is know that it’s a rush job. Do not pretend you have unlimited time or you will not pass GO, you will not collect $200*. You only have the time you have. Make sure you manage the expectations on yourself accordingly.
You’re competing against the part of you that wants to make something beautiful. And, lordy, it’s putting up a good fight. But remind yourself that you are doing your best with the time you’ve got and, whatever you’ve done, it’s more than your client could have managed. That’s why they hired you. Your job has worth.
We all need a helping hand at times and, in the words of John, George, Ringo and Paul, “I get by with a little help from my friends at Sex, Drugs & Helvetica”. Each month we’ll be talking you through the “How To” of those tricky day-to-day tasks we all have to tackle.
Image by Magdalena Ksiezak