Sunday Mailbag

August 26th, 2012 | Posted in Mailbag

Q: I was wondering what kind of schedule you have for yourself when you are up against a really tight deadline such as the one you had when you drew the Bo¬¨‚Ć Obama book. How do you schedule tasks such as penciling, inking and coloring along with sleeping and other routines when it’s really tight time-wise?

` All deadlines end up becoming “really tight time-wise.” See this post from a few weeks ago regarding regular time management and general deadlines.

Occasionally, either through poor time management, unforeseen circumstances, underestimating how long something will take to complete or taking on an emergency job under impossible conditions, deadlines will go from “tight” to “dire” to “RED ALERT! RED ALERT!” When that happens there is no such thing as time management. When a job reaches critical mass, you have two choices:

  1. Give up and blow the deadline, costing you the job, a client and possibly damaging your career.
  2. Shut down everything else in your life and work until you either meet the deadline or die.

If you choose option two, then there are no rules. Chaos reigns,¬¨‚Ć your life goes on hold and you eat, sleep and breathe the job until it’s complete. Usually that kind of “critical mass” phase is only at the very end, so an all-nighter or some ridiculous but relatively short marathon of work will do the trick. In extreme cases, it’ becomes a multiple-day process where one might have to resort to power naps of 1-2 hours over the course of several days, breaking only to get some food when the blood sugar gets low.

I do not recommend allowing any job to get to that point. It is not good for you, and often results in doing less that your best work. That Bo book job was a special project that MAD needed done in an impossible amount of time, and I took it on knowing it would be a RED ALERT situation work for weeks on end. I could have said no, but I didn’t. I’m not sure I would say yes to a similar situation again. . . that was a hard three weeks.

No matter how hard you try and manage your time, eventually things will break down and it will be decision-time. The best you can do is try and understand your true limitations, and not challenge those too often.

Thanks to Matthew Cox¬¨‚Ć for the question. If you have a question you want answered for the mailbag about cartooning, illustration, MAD Magazine, caricature or similar,¬¨‚Će-mail me¬¨‚Ćand I’ll try and answer it here!

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