What do you do when all you have to do is meet one deadline after another? “Meet them!” says Common Sense (CS). Now who will tell Mr. CS that I am virtually dead against the deadlines ahead? Huh, manage your time, they say! You can only manage it if you have the time to manage your time. And given the amount of workload you have in hand, it’s often very hard to find the time to manage your time. Your main focus is the next deadline you have to meet. You’re working under pressure, almost always. Maybe it’s because when there’s no pressure you don’t work at all, or that you work on things that have no deadlines associated with them. The etymology of the word ‘deadline’, courtesy the HYPERLINK “http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?term=deadline” Online Etymology Dictionary, is “time limit,” 1920, Amer.Eng. newspaper jargon. Perhaps influenced by earlier use (1864) to mean the “do-not-cross” line in Civil War prisons: “Seventeen feet from the inner stockade was the ‘dead-line,’ over which no man could pass and live.” [Lossing, 1868]
A deadline, well, meant a line that you could not cross alive. These are hard times. The modern age is an age of deadlines. And an age, well, of deadliness. As I see it, some smart fellow used the concept of time to streamline and coordinate the various tasks that one is supposed to do. The dilemma, dear reader, is immense. The conflict is one of priorities. When you have more deadlines than one scheduled for the same time you have to prioritize. You have to determine the degree of deadliness of the deadline and place it accordingly on the list of deadlines (Of course, there might be some factors other than deadliness that determine your priorities). And then you have to meet them, those ‘dead’lines. In fact, you know, as I write this I am working against two deadlines at the same time which, of course, I don’t intend to reveal here.
Is life just about jumping from one deadline to the next? Is there nothing more to it? This, of course, I write in a state of happy desperation. Happy, because I have a lot to look forward to (which, of course, more colloquially means that I am caught in a web of deadlines but given the eternal optimism intrinsic to my nature I can’t frame it thus) and desperate because it seems there is more to look forward to than I can actually look forward to. But then I can’t help but make efforts. After all, one cannot afford not making an effort when the deadlines you have ahead are the choices you exercised some time in the past when you thought you need some ‘ginger in life’. Now that you have your ‘ginger in life’ you mustn’t regret the choices you made. And, well, I don’t regret them either. In fact, they are teaching me an important lesson – a lesson in time management. The more important thing, I always held, was life management. If you can manage your life, you don’t need to manage your time. But now, in retrospect, I feel I was wrong. Life management and time management aren’t mutually exclusive. The latter is a subset of the former and, in fact, a necessary condition for the former.
Now, having ranted and rambled awhile, some contemplation (for lack of a more solemn word) on deadlines: When you have to meet a deadline the quality of the work you do is evidently subject to certain constraints – of time and otherwise. You can’t always take your own sweet time in doing things. You have to do things on time. Time is everything. It makes the world go round. This is one reason why time fascinates this writer. It is so very sinister, so very regulatory, and so very useful at the same time. If you notice we are parts of a circle. We regulate our deadlines and our deadlines regulate us. And that is how the world works. Life then is not about jumping from one deadline to the next. It’s about what lies between the deadlines.
There is, however, one fault in our approach to deadlines. The legendary Dhirubhai said,
“Meeting the deadlines is not good enough. Beating the deadlines is my expectation”
And so is mine (henceforth, that is)!
[image courtesy: http://flickr.com/photos/[email protected]/2048903935/sizes/m/]