When my wife asked me what I would like for lunch, I mumbled "anything" as I was furiously typing on the keyboard. It was only much later that I realised I have let one of the more important parts of a routine slip away.
As if to make up for the lost opportunity, I took some time off and walked out into the sunshine. It was hot but the break took the wind off the deadline pressure. Then it dawned on me that lunch was a deadline that I took for granted. As I settled down under the shade of a tree, I began to wonder of all the deadlines that I pushed into the background.
I looked around me and saw the 'tongues' of the leaves in the garden sticking out. I ignored that deadline because I have not watered the plants for three days. Why do deadlines push us to the edge of panic and near insanity? I have tried everything to overcome the problem but nothing really has worked so far. Even some of my own advise have never really worked that well.
"You must always have two of them," I remember telling one of my students about a project. "Draw another one well before the real one. If you constantly go beyond both of them then it's time you decide whether you lack focus or you're just careless."
However, I do have two of them but I just manage to slam the brakes inches before the second one. Disciplined and meticulous people have no problems in that area but the likes of us, who turn up at the airport a few minutes before departure, are the most vulnerable. The wall of a deadline, therefore, attracts the spontaneous who get their drive when their backs are pinned on that same wall. Mind you, there's always the fear that the wall may buckle under pressure to expose your failings.
Deadlines, strictly speaking, are harmless and they are a joy to meet if no pressure is involved. We unconsciously impose many deadlines all the time and sometimes we really look forward to it when they come. Do you ever complain when planning to treat yourself to a sumptuous dinner at the weekend? You count the days and wish the day is closer. On the other hand, work deadlines mean anxiety and a fear of losing one's job. How do you save yourself a headache and happily meet your deadlines?
I don't know but to stop worrying over something you've got to do is a good start. Maybe drawing a parallel with something pleasant may help. You may prepare the same way to gear yourself before you go on holiday. Normally we leave to the end something we are unhappy with then force ourselves to do the task. Perhaps, by giving a priority to what we dread most and pushing our favourite tasks behind may solve the problem.
There was this office clerk who used to do the filing first thing in the morning before he even made himself a cup of tea.
"I see many of my colleagues scrambling to the pantry first thing every morning instead of doing an important task first," he told me. Tea is a treat, so I leave it to the last when I can really enjoy it." Many people say that they cannot function before a strong coffee when they are already alert and fresh in the morning.
"Deadlines are best kept as early as possible when you are at your peak. A bite and a beverage can come later at your own leisure to celebrate a job well done," the clerk added. I could not agree with him more.