I’ve spent my entire professional career living by deadlines. You would think I’d be used to this by now.

In college, my schedule revolved around the Wednesday night deadline. The one that made sure our university newspaper got off to the printer and was delivered to the driveways of our subscribers every Thursday afternoon. … I always started the week refreshed, rested, clean-shaven. By the end of those weeks I usually looked like a walking zombie.

But I fed off the pressure, the adrenaline rushes and the build-up of each week.

After college, I transitioned into daily newspaper reporting -- where the mantra was, as one of my favorite newspaper quotes goes:
The newspaper business is the only enterprise in the world where a person is supposed to become an expert on any conceivable subject between one in the afternoon and a 6 p.m. deadline. (Robert S. Bird, The New York Times)
On certain days, when the really big stories broke, the adrenaline rush was through the roof, and the anxiety was almost unbearable. But with the daily deadlines, there was something of a monotony that lessened the power of the rush.

Now, in this latest chapter of my career, doing media relations, I’m having flashbacks of my days of those weekly deadlines. Now, each week brings a rush up to a Thursday afternoon deadline -- a sort of ghost-writing gig I have that I somehow manage to get published each Friday morning (so I found this read particularly interesting and relatable). Week after week.

Until last fall, that Thursday afternoon deadline was the dominant source of my anxiety each week. Then, I decided working toward a master’s degree sounded like a good idea. And the Thursday afternoon deadline took a backseat to the Wednesday night deadline for my graduate papers. Double the anxiety.

But I feed off the rush. I’m competitive. I’m a perfectionist. And I do what it takes to get. the. job. done. … On Monday I participated in a fascinating professional development session that focused on improving communication among differing genders, generations and genetic traits. During the lesson about genetic traits, participants were characterized as one of four different animals based on their genetic traits. I’m a lion.

So this week’s graduate assignment was to choose one of five creative options as a vehicle to deliver a review of our studies this semester. Among the options were writing a multi-stanza poem, a narrative for a documentary or writing a one-act play. I considered the documentary narrative, before settling on compiling a timeline, using Prezi.

I worked on it until about 2:30 a.m. this morning -- which would be yesterday morning at this point. Building the Prezi is one thing, but skimming every chapter of our 600-page textbook for all of the relevant dates, statistics and anecdotes  is another.

After last night, I figured I’d finished about one-third of the project. And with that midnight deadline looming today, I knew I had my work cut out for me.

I got through my work day, but I had a lecture to tend to on campus tonight, too. Best-selling authors T.C. Boyle was on campus today. ... I sat in on a creative writing class he spoke with this afternoon; I always enjoy hearing other writers discuss their processes and comparing them to my own. His visit meant I had a news conference to mediate and then maybe stick around for his lecture. This is the way it’s gone the last three Wednesday nights, and, miraculously, I’ve managed to do the news conference thing, attend the lectures and still get back to my office to finish my papers by midnight.

Tonight, however, I knew I needed every minute. So I did the news conference and then ducked back to my office. … I posted my timeline at 11:55 p.m. -- ahead of four of my classmates, I might add. My project is far from perfect, and I could’ve spent several more hours tweaking it if I had the time. See it for yourself.

When I finally arrive home, there was one more deadline to beat: Completing my NCAA brackets.

I’ve made my picks, but I’ll share them in another post. I need some sleep.

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