Skelly Tutorial part 2, How to Cope with Deadline Panic
During ten years of running a custom bridal label, there were many moments of severe stress. Despite the most meticulous planning, there was still occasional panic. When you’re running a business, especially one that hinges on immovable deadlines, it doesn’t seem to matter how careful the planning is – there are curveballs thrown at you out of no where, and you have no choice but to figure out a way to juggle them.
I’d love to lie to you and tell you that I’m just so cool, I never had moments of being a deer in the headlights, but the truth is no where near that. I have definitely had situations that initially felt so dire, so overwhelming that I couldn’t move. I couldn’t think straight, I was paralyzed from stress. And sometimes it wasn’t even so dramatic. Sometimes it was just looking at the calendar, seeing what was looming, and having a feeling that it was just too much for one human to handle in a timely manner. I would freeze. That sounds like a planning problem, but when you have 25 brides, even one of them asking for additions can push things a bit out of scope, and I can assure you it was never only one bride asking for late changes, even with a contract that really discouraged it.
Obviously, you can’t give into panic and freeze up with people’s wedding gowns. You have to get them done. And done well.
So, how do you break out of deadline panic when you feel like you can’t move?
There are a few things. First, are you sleep deprived? This happens often. It goes counter to all stress messages from the brain, but I can assure you from my own experience and that of friends in similar situations. Even if you think you can’t afford the hours required for sleep, you will get more (and better) work done if you do. The extra hours of work you try to put in while over-tired, regardless of caffeine levels, won’t amount to as much as you can get done with a shorter work period while rested. I know you probably don’t believe me. I promise it’s true.
“But I can’t sleep, when I lay down, all I can think about is the deadline panic.”
Valid. I’ve done this, too. I have a hard line I draw with myself when my brain starts to spiral in the night. “This is sleep time now. Not work time. I can’t do anything about any of these things at this moment, I’m laying in bed, so there is no point in cycling through them. Shut up, brain, and we’ll deal with it when we wake up.” You don’t even have to mean this at the beginning, but say it anyway, and keep reminding yourself that it’s true.
Alright. You’ve slept, you’ve eaten something nutritious to help your brain and body, you’ve had some water (keep drinking water, it helps your brain). What now? Sit down and make a list. You can start with a broad strokes list, but then I want you break every thing down to the smallest possible task. Super small. Instead of writing “make wedding gown”, or even “draft pattern”, write out “go into production room, get out pattern paper”, and “assemble tools”. The most basic shit. If you have another panic breakdown, you will still be two steps closer to the goal than you were before.
When you break things down in this way, into the smallest possible tasks, there are going to be a bunch on the page that seem really easy. That don’t brush up too hard against that panic monster sitting in your chest that is making it hard to breathe. When you see list items like “pull out lining fabric”, “change machine needle”, “iron tulle”, you are there, doing. Easy stuff. Not scary stuff. But it slowly chips away at the Big Scary Project. You don’t have to do your list items in order, either. Just pick the easiest ones. And eventually, before you know it, you will tip over into the Important Tasks, the ones you’ve been procrastinating. By chipping away at the prep work, you will softly approach the Big Tasks and it won’t feel so impossible to do them. It’s like creeping up on your work, tricking your brain out of the paralysis.
If you have multiple deadlines, this method still works. You can do all your prep work for them at the same time, choosing all the easy things, but once you dig in, focus on one project at a time until you hit a wall. Once the wall is hit, switch to the next one. This is how I appear to be so productive, I work on multiple things at once. Obviously I had no choice with bridal stuff, but I do this with my art, too.
Skelly Top Part 2!
Materials for this part:
- Top/sweatshirt/garment to work on
- Embroidery hoop
- Scissors, snips
- Thread, needle
- lightweight fusible interfacing if you’re using a lightweight or stretch fabric (I recommend tricot/fusiknit)
- Either chalk/wax/or coloured pencil (I recommend a coloured-pencil)