In every ministry there are things that must be done in a timely manner.  One of our Special Gathering staff members once told me, “I would stay up all night rather than miss a deadline.”  She was talking about our newsletter, Connecting Point, deadline.  I laughed because I have stayed up all night more than once rather than miss the hour when the clock ticks 12 and I am late.

For most people, the deadline is a dreaded ordeal, no matter what the issue, event or project.  There are many ways to approach the deadline.  Some of them are good.  Some are awful.  We will explore the best and the better way of approaching a deadline.

Richard Stimson, the Special Gathering executive director, has a unique approach to meeting deadlines.  He does not ever procrastinate.  Therefore, he usually finishes most project at least one week in advance.  I say his approach is unique because I’ve never met anyone who finishes projects in advance.  Perhaps there are lots of people out there who are that way.  However, I’ve not met them.  This approach is, of course, the best and most failure proof way of meeting the quickly approaching deadline. 

While this is not my normal practice, I have on occasion been able to accomplish his monumental feat.  It is extremely freeing.  The key to this approach is to set an artificial deadline for yourself and stick to it.  

For me, tax day is a prefect example.  For years, I waited until April 15 to get my information into the mail.  At times, I would even take a vacation day to complete the task.  Then one year, I discovered on April 15 that I was without several forms that I needed.  I panicked and hustled around like a mad person, going to the post office for the forms, finding the IRS office, attempting to acquire the proper forms.  To my great surprise and dismay, the post office and IRS were out of my necessary forms.  I was told by the IRC that I should file an extension and I would be mailed the absent forms.  I did that but I learned my lesson.  As soon as the form was mailed to me, I got the information into the mail.  I didn’t wait for the next deadline to roll around.   I vowed to never wait until the last-minute again. 

My artificial deadline for tax day became March 15.  My drop-dead deadline is April 1.  If necessary, I still take a vacation day to meet my drop-dead deadline.  Because I don’t get the necessary forms to do the taxes until the end of January and February is an exceptionally busy month with our ministry, I set a later date than February. 

Again, using the IRS analogy, I do my homework ahead of time.  I begin to gather IRS information in February so that I will be ready.  Additionally, I have a WORKABLE and SIMPLE system set up that helps me to keep all my tax information together.  All year, I collect all my receipts in a basket on the top shelf of my office.  It’s a large basket and out of the way.  Because I save every receipt, I don’t have to worry or sort until February regarding this information and I don’t miss any deductions.

In any ongoing project, it is good to set up a workable and simple system that will allow you to swiftly gather the information that you need.  Each Friday, we are to e-mail to the bookkeeper our deposit and expenses information.  I have hassled for years with a workable and easy system to keep the information needed in a convenient place.  A couple of months ago, I bought a small cabinet with small drawers that has one purpose, keeping this information.  It is working and it is simple.

A good friend told me that she had a basket that she sat on the corner of her desk that was only for her newsletter items.  This became the workable and simple method that she used each day to gather the information she needed.  The trick is to have a dedicated place to put your information.  It may be an office mail box or a mail slot.  Simple and workable is the key.

Over the years, I’ve observed what works for others and for myself.  While there are other things which may be even more funtional, these seem to universally effective.  First, artificial deadlines; and, second, simple and workable information gathering points are important keys to helping you stay ahead of the dreaded last-minute efforts that can be brought on by a deadline.