#19: Don’t Let Your Deadlines Be Deadly

#19: Don’t Let Your Deadlines Be Deadly

The dreaded season for giving EMPLOYEE REVIEWS had arrived, and the managers and directors were in a tizzy. Would the new process involve bizarre and inexplicable software? Would there be 15 point development plans, or 360 degree evaluations? Would it be a total time suck? We joked about the 17 page review form favored by a former administrator with all of the dread and empathy of veterans discussing war time.

So you can imagine our shock when the VP, announcing the new process, unveiled a TWO page form that was so simple, it didn’t require bizarre and inexplicable software to complete – just a pen. Gone were the 8 “ministry competencies” each with 5 indicators requiring mathematical scores and textual descriptions. Adios to the development plans with a minimum of three SMART goals (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Timely). In fact, there was a blessed lack of acronyms in the entire process. And the most jaw-dropping part?

We had OVER A YEAR to complete the forms and submit revised, one page job descriptions.

Imagine! A whole year to produce only three pages! Talk about a relief! Talk about a blessing!

Talk about giving me juuuuust enough rope with which to hang myself.

Maybe it’s the former journalist in me, but I have always needed a hard deadline. I have to know how to plan my time. Truthfully, I need to know how much time I have until I actually need to buckle down and do the work. Included in the procrastinate/buckle down equation is how late the building is open, and if slipping the assignment under my boss’ office door at the stroke of midnight will count against me.

Not that I’ve ever done that, of course.

I sat down with said boss and we discussed strategy. He set a “pre-deadline, deadline” 2 months prior to when the reviews were actually due, so that we would not be waiting until the bitter end. There would be no last minute fumbling with scores of pages! No stress! No all-nighters!

And as time would tell, there would be no way we would honor such a responsible and well-thought out pre-deadline, deadline.

Spoiler alert: We were able to meet the actual deadline with some time to spare, and neither of us had to screech into the parking lot at 11:59 PM with a folder of forms and a milkshake bribe for the security guard.

I can’t say I did not enjoy the freedom of those many “review-free” months. But the two weeks prior to the deadline were un-fun for my boss, myself, and everyone who had to interact with either of us on a personal or professional level. It was not only stressful, it was unnecessarily stressful. And we could not blame the process; we had done it to ourselves.

I wish I could say I have learned a deep lesson about this, and I’ll never procrastinate again. However, I can’t imagine a life in which I am always well-organized, disciplined, and responsible. Between you and me, this blog entry is being written 2 weeks after it was due. I have not totally turned over a new leaf.

But the other day, I got my car tag renewal form in the mail. It was not due for over a month. Many a birthday has seen me at Jiffy Lube, in line for the emissions inspection I needed to submit the online renewal later that night, a scant few hours before it was due. But this year is different! Would you believe I have already done both the inspection and paid the registration fee, a full week before the deadline?

OK, you are wise to doubt me. It’s not a full week, exactly, it’s only 5 days. But still! Progress! One less last minute thing to worry about!

I am enough of a control freak that deadlines will always bother me, in that they are a continual reminder that I am not in charge of everything. You are not in charge of everything, either. Which is a shame, because you seem like a bright person, with much potential for greatness.

But perhaps you are carrying some unnecessary stress, and occasionally you find yourself bending under the weight of it. There are many things beyond your ability to change, and they can be hard to manage. I’m not saying to drop all of your responsibilities and give up, though that is tempting. I would just suggest to you that maybe there are some small things about your life that have been hanging over your head. And you can choose to handle them not when they are due, but now. You don’t need to hit the snooze bar on every calendar reminder. Take care of some little things, which will then free up your energies to tackle the bigger ones.

Because remember, you are a bright person, with much potential for greatness. And your deadlines don’t have to be deadly!

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