As a child they put the fear of God in me and failing to meet one wouldn’t even cross my mind. As a student they were an obnoxious presence, but I warily kept an eye on them. They brought some ominous consequences along if I failed to meet them. Nowadays, they are dull and powerless. The magic of deadlines has slowly died over the years.
Once upon a Time
What gives deadlines their strength that they get me into the right gear to get my work done? As a child it was the fact of breaking a promise to the teacher – that was something I couldn’t dream of doing. I met the deadlines days before the imposed date. I usually did more than required.
As a student deadlines went together with marks. Fail the deadline, fail the subject. Not a promising thought. Through the years, however, the commitment to finish my assignments long before their due date slowly began to falter. Eventually I ended up typing my way into the early hours barely making the deadline. I needed the pressure – I’d like to think I did.
And now there are no longer threatening teachers or subjects to pass to meet deadlines, only managers. And they do love to set them. Perhaps more than necessary – there’s a deadline for nearly everything: holidays, workshops, tasks, meetings. The dates are always in bold and a bit bigger than the rest of the text.
With all those deadlines I quite worried when I missed my first one in my current job. I went to my colleague who smiled back at me and reassured me it was fine. Here was something new. Don’t meet a deadline and there are no consequences.
“Don’t worry, hardly anyone replied to the e-mail. You can still sign up for the training.”
It was not what I had expected. After that incident I started noticing deadlines were extended nearly every time: meetings, tasks, very important e-mails. This realisation killed the last bit of magic deadlines held.
Rekindling the Magic
Meeting deadlines has become a real challenge but that doesn’t mean I can do without them. So I need to come up with a constructive way to set deadlines that I can’t keep extending. It’s far more difficult than I had in mind. So ideas are most welcome.