how I learned to manage deadlines

I remember the first time I met Dan Caterinicchia in his office on 18th Avenue.

Dan had previously written for the Associated Press and was currently the faculty advisor for the student paper, The Lantern. His office was located in the Newsroom: Room 275.

After asking my advisor in the Exploration program at Ohio State what I should try if I liked writing, she recommended I stop by the Journalism building and talk to Dan.

Dan recommended I take an independent study for the quarter. All I had to do was publish a handful of stories over the quarter and I’d receive a class credit.

Getting a story published was pretty simple, he told me. I could pitch my own story ideas for approval, or take on one of the leads that came into the tip line. Then once I had a story approved, I’d have a 3:00pm deadline to turn the finished piece in to my editor.

“If you don’t turn your story in before the deadline, it will never run.” he told me.

Deadlines aren’t optional in the world of journalism. There is no flexibility. In order to go to print on time and get the paper out the next day, everything must run as expected. Even breaking news stories are immediately given a deadline.

If you miss the deadline, all your work goes for naught. It doesn’t matter how much time and effort you put into it – the article is no longer relevant. And your relationship with your editor? Good luck fixing that.

Dan was one of the best teachers I’ve ever had. What he really taught me was that a “deadline” is a contract with yourself.

If you train your mind to believe that your work loses value after the deadline, you’ll hit them. If you miss a deadline (and thereby train your brain that it’s OK to do so) you will continue to do so.

Deadlines become a foregone conclusion – the work will get “done” by the deadline, the only question is what degree of perfection you are able to attain (or degree of imperfection you are willing to live with).

It comes down to habit and trust in yourself, and you can start building that now.


Hey, can I have your email address? I will only send you more articles like this one.