Coming from a background of travel journalism, I have long worked under the pressure of deadlines. Daily, unrelenting, pervasive deadlines. I have always hated them, but I’ve also grown to love them as well.
Deadlines make things happen. When a press person misses a deadline, the consequences can be profound. You get editors and publishers angry. You disappoint yourself and colleagues. But even worse…you may not get paid.
As a travel designer, I’ve incorporated deadlines into all the work I do. It’s how I manage the work that needs to get done. Here’s half a dozen ways how I use deadlines to work for our firm.
1. When I start a new client’s trip, I immediately put all the associated deadlines into my online calendars. I include details such as when deposit and balance payments are due, when visas need to be applied for, when travel health-related details have to be discussed, when final itineraries need to go out. The list goes on.
2. Realizing that sometimes #1 doesn’t go according to plan (i.e. I get distracted with a call or some other “immediate action needed” situation arises and I forget to put all deadlines in the calendar), I have a back-up system. Once a week (usually Monday mornings), I look at the big picture. Who’s traveling now? Who is about to travel? Who needs to be reminded of travel documents and travel clinic visits? Who needs final documents this week?
3. For future trips, I keep a running list of who and when I need to reach out to about their annual trips or holiday travel. If I have clients who are procrastinators, I give them a deadline. For example, I remind them that last year we had their summer trip locked up by the end of February and we’re already into March.
4. Most important of all my deadlines is requiring clients to commit quickly. We all know the best hotels and the top guides get taken fast and how “he who hesitates” is likely to lose out. But expecting clients to commit to a 2-week itinerary that costs more than they paid for their car is quite a tall order. The key is to keep your itineraries to the point so the client can easily access details (and not have to read between the lines to understand what you are saying). But, most important is having the relationship with your client so they completely trust you and your choices. This, of course, takes time and ongoing experience working together.
5. Phony deadlines is another concept I used to hate but came to love. It used to drive me crazy that an editor needed an article “yesterday” but then takes two weeks to read and get back to me wanting revisions. When discussing deadlines with clients, I always build in a margin of time for the possibility of them not getting back to me on time. So if a DMC says they have a courtesy hold for us until Friday, I will let the client know that we have a courtesy hold until Tuesday. This helps too with time differences. My clients might be on the west coast and the DMC in Vietnam. I also have to work around holidays and weekends. If you are sending someone to the Middle East, it’s necessary to keep in mind that the weekends there are usually Friday-Saturday. Thursday is the latest you can count on reaching partners, so it’s always important to set deadlines for those destinations early in our workweek.
6. Ever the workaholic, I also need to give myself cut-off deadlines. While I can keep going well into the wee hours, there’s a point at which working is counterproductive. Not only can I make mistakes, but I’ve learned that doing something when I’m fresh in the morning takes half the time it would take if I tried to do it at midnight. I’ve also come to accept the fact that I will never be caught up with everything. Sometimes the best deadline is just the Me Deadline. It’s very empowering to say “I’m done for the day.” Tomorrow will bring more deadlines.
Susan Farewell is the owner of Farewell Travels LLC (FarewellTravels.com), a travel design firm based in Connecticut. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram @FarewellTravels.