From school, to university, to work,to everyday life, there’s no getting away from it – deadlines exist. Some are more critical than others of course – forget to pay your bills on time and you might find yourself in financial trouble. Forget to hand in an essay at university and lose 40% of the grade for the work. Miss a project deadline at work and you might lose your job. But why? Students of often wonder, and sometimes ask, ‘what does it matter if I don’t get that done on time?’ Isn’t the deadline arbitrary anyway?
Usually, that kind of question comes from a failure to see that you are not alone. The deadline you’ve been given is usually part of a chain. And, the person hassling you to meet a deadline is usually being hassled by someone else, and that someone else might well be being hassled by someone else and so on…
Take a school essay – an Internal Assessment draft, for example. A date is set for hand in, so what if you miss it? Well, usually the teacher has set a date for hand in, because the coordinator has set a date for hand in, because the IB has a date for hand in that can’t be missed. And this is the critical bit. Somewhere down this deadline chain, there’s a deadline that can’t, under any circumstances, be missed. And, everyone is working backwards from there.
Take a workplace example. Your direct manager has asked for a report to be written and handed to her by 12pm on Wednesday. The report is part of a much larger report which has to be submitted by your manager to her manager by 12pm on Friday. So you think, ‘ah, she doesn’t really need it till Friday, so it’s ok if I get it to her on Thursday, or maybe Friday morning. Except, and here’s the crucial, deadline meeting bit, your manager has built in a ‘buffer zone’. She needs the report from you earlier to check that you’ve done it right, to check there aren’t any mistakes and, just in case there are, she’s built in enough time to get you to revise the report before her deadline on Friday.
So if you’re going to meet deadlines, so that others can meet their deadlines, you have to take a lesson from your manager and build in a buffer zone. Whatever you do, don’t aim to complete a piece of work right on the final day. Always, and I mean, always, aim to be done before. Set yourself your own ‘internal deadline’, put it on your calendar and stick to it. That way, if you mess up, get something wrong, or something comes up, you have a little bit of time to get it right and still meet the deadline.
You might have noticed that the IB deadlines calendar is looking a little full right now. That’s because I’ve been working with heads of faculties to set the most appropriate deadlines for IA work. And all of these deadlines are part of a chain. If you miss one, you break the chain, weaken the links and cause problems for yourself (like the fact that you’ll then have to face more work the following week when there’s another deadline too). You also cause problems for your teachers, who have fixed the deadlines to ensure completion of all the requirements of their courses, including paperwork, in time for the deadlines I set, which are informed by the deadlines IB sets – and those are the unmissable ones! It’s important that you look carefully at the calendar, work out which deadlines pertain to your courses and then plan for how you’re going to meet them. Leave a buffer zone, break the work into smaller tasks, set deadlines for the smaller tasks, and check off on your schedule when you’ve done them.
Remember that missing deadlines makes you appear unprofessional and disorganized and impacts someone else in the chain. But, if, for some very good reason, you cannot meet a deadline it is imperative that you talk to the people concerned as early as possible (never after you’ve already missed the deadline), explain clearly the problem, and provide a solution. Your teacher, or boss, is still not going to be happy but at least you’ve been polite and professional, which might influence the response you get!
Follow the advice you’ve been given, ask for help before crunch time and believe you are the sort of person who is reliable and meets deadlines and you’ll be just fine!