Rekindling the Lost Magic

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.

deadlineAnd 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.



6 thoughts on “Rekindling the Lost Magic

  1. I agree if the work that needs to be done is enjoyable it’s not so bad. I’m just not very keen on writing reports and that unfortunately is part of the job. The training was about what and how to report… so yes at the time I wasn’t really looking forward to it 😉 But I’m working on it. 🙂

  2. Deadlines for me only count if I am held responsible by others. Otherwise, I will let them slip. So I usually have to announce them online, or make my friends be mean to me. It isn’t that I stop working on stuff — I wander off and work on other stuff.

    For example, if I want to have revisions of chapters 1-10 finished, my brain goes, “OMG, I just had the best idea for chapter 14! We need to pour all of our energy into this for the next week.” Which is followed by, “Deadline? Who agreed to that? I don’t see it in writing anywhere. Btw, I have some thoughts for chapter 17 that you’re going to love!”

  3. The people who write books about intrinsic vs. extrinsic motivation would point to this and say, “AHA!! See what happens when kids are only motivated to do something by external forces?!” I don’t really have an answer for you. Perhaps doing a little soul searching and making sure you’re doing what you really want to do? If you’re doing what you love and you keep a calendar of dates, it seems like the deadlines should take care of themselves. But if you aren’t really enjoying the work?? Signing up for a training is also different from producing a piece of work. Perhaps you were a bit ambivalent about doing the training to begin with? I’m just grasping at straws here.

    I still meet deadlines because I don’t want to disappoint myself or others. Just because some people miss deadlines doesn’t mean I want to be one of them. My husband would grin at hearing me say this and reply, “Standards! The standards are falling! Mustn’t let the standards go to hell!” I’ll be interested to see if others have better responses than this limp one I offer.

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