The dreaded deadline: it’s a writer’s worst enemy. And the best plug to stop the flow of creative juices. Whether you write professionally or as a student, you’re faced with deadlines; and the anxiety, writer’s block, paralysis and other crippling symptoms they can cause are very real.

That being said, here are a few tips for writing to a deadline that go beyond drinking energy drinks and slapping yourself in the face. 

Taking It Seriously

If you don’t take writing deadlines seriously, chances are you won’t meet them on a regular basis. It’s important to make deadlines a priority if you want to have a chance of getting your work done on time — and taken seriously as a result.

You need to make peace with the fact that the deadline is in control. Write it down so you’re able to see it every day, so it can keep its eyes on you. Stick it on a Post-it, set a series of alarms, do what you need to do! If you have it in plain sight, it will inevitably be in mind as well.

A motivating factor to keep in mind is what missing a deadline would do to your reputation, as well as that of the people you might be writing for. When people put their trust in you, it’s only fair to deliver on your promise.

Clear Communication

Of course, it’s tough to meet a deadline if you aren’t totally clear on the date. Whether it’s for work or school, be clear on when the deadline is, so you’re 100 percent sure. If you’re a freelance writer and you know the client needs your project quickly, find out if there’s also a time attached to the date. Sometimes, a client will need something by 9 am for a noon meeting, and you need to know this information to meet the deadline. Call or e-mail them to make sure. It’s better to be sure by confirming it than unprofessional by missing it. This could also be an opportunity to see how set in stone the deadline is. If you think you may need more time, negotiate for it.

Break It into Parts

Once you know the exact deadline and you’re serious about it, you can get to work. If the project seems a little daunting to get finished in time, try breaking it into manageable parts to make the process easier.

Looking at any project as a whole is just a recipe for anxiety. So, focus on one step at a time — one sentence at a time if need be — and you’ll have a much better chance of meeting your deadline in a timely manner.

Go Step by Step

It’s also important to focus on the process one step at a time. Breaking a writing project up into pieces won’t help you meet a deadline if you’re still stressing about all of them at once. Arrange your projects in order of urgency. Start wherever you’re comfortable (this may be at the beginning or wherever else in the process), and then move forward bit by bit, making sure your schedule has room for vacancy.

Leave Some Wiggle Room

Perhaps the most important tip when it comes to meeting writing deadlines on a regular basis is not to over-commit yourself. It’s nice to have opportunities as a writer, and it’s hard to turn work down. If you take on too much at once you’re sure to spread yourself thin.

Not only will you feel stressed and anxious, but the work will suffer — quite evidently at that. The last thing you want to hear from someone evaluating your writing is, “Seems as though you rushed through this.” So, leave yourself some wiggle room for unexpected delays and you’ll be able to stay balanced and produce your best work.