It is funny. It is serious. It is a habit. The truth is that a lot gets done on the last date. The last date is like an open secret that we mortals are forever exploring and never seem to get tired of.

‘Why do you always wait for the last date and then begin writing your column?’ said Specky when she saw me getting up early in the morning to get busy with my laptop.

I said, ‘Last dates are like Viagra. They make your pulse jog fast, the excitement rises, and then the mind begins getting all the right signals from sexy ideas!’ She just looked at and walked off saying, ‘Shout when you’re ready for breakfast.’

The truth about deadlines is that without them we remain busy with almost everything else in the world. There is always an important launch to attend, a dinner to go to, a vital visit to the store, an interesting book to be read, twitter contests to participate in, or even some inane updates on Facebook to be done. Everything suddenly becomes more important than what you are supposed to be doing… until the deadline or the last date changes the entire complexion! Deadlines, in fact, stimulate the creative juices to flow better and faster! Andrew Bernstein agrees when he wrote: ‘We need to distinguish between stress and stimulation. Having deadlines, setting goals, and pushing yourself to perform at capacity are stimulating. Stress is when you’re anxious, upset, or frustrated, which dramatically reduce your ability to perform.’

By the time I wrote all this, my wife was back from her morning trip to the kitchen and was reading what I was writing. She said, ‘Hmmm… getting down to serious work with a deadline hovering ominously on your head is hardly my idea of a stimulating work environment. I like to finish my work well on time.’ I knew she was telling the truth as she was the sort who always aimed at finishing her work in advance. She was, in fact, a person who was perpetually under duress because the others connected to her assignment weren’t giving her their output on time.

So yes, another facet of deadlines is that they are interesting and stimulating to an individual in a creative sort of way. However, where jobs are to be done, it is much better to remain ahead of them. Look at the civic agencies, for instance… they know that the monsoons bring with them overflowing drains, and yet they fail to set deadline for themselves and invariably wake up late for the mandatory de-silting of the drains that needs to be done every year! The PWD is again so well known to go way beyond deadlines as if they love the sight of a dug up commercial space and people making their way over piled up construction equipment! It is horrible to see trains running late and people saying, ‘Why can’t the railways have a schedule that they can stick to?’

Deadlines are like warning signals to tell us that the task that ought to have been completed is yet pending. These professionals that I have just mentioned must have been the sort of students who invariably begin their studies only when the last date for the final exams knocks at their doors! In most cases, if an assignment or a job or your studies enter the crucial phase of the ‘last date’ it simply means you are bent upon cooking a dish that is going to be a disaster!

So let the romanticism and the poetry of last dates be with the poets and writers like me… so far as you are concerned, just remember to finish your job fast and get on with some other vital task! By the way, your hard work leaves me with enough time to fool around with last dates and write joyful articles like this one!

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2013_05_20_The Education Post_The Last Date

2013_05_20_The Education Post_The Last Date

Arvind Passey
Written on 19 May 2013
Published in ‘The Education Post’ dated 20 May 2013