ILCA Women’s Networking Group

Bang, bang. You’re dead. by sgramsilca
November 9, 2009, 6:43 pm
Filed under: 1

I’ve been a bad, bad blogger. I was supposed to log my entry on November 3rd and am only now posting it to the website. I made comment of this last week and my Events Manager, a seasoned blogger, said “Scott, it’s a blog. Everyone misses a blog post every now and then.”

That got me thinking about deadlines. There are few more ominous, foreboding words in the English language than “deadline.” It seems only fitting that the term should have an ominous origin. It actually relates to a physical line in Civil War prison camps. Most Civil War prison camps were so large that they could not possibly keep everyone under lock and key. Instead, they kept all prisoners on the grounds surrounded by two lines. The first line was there for a warning. If a prisoner crossed the line they were warned to get back behind it. It was acceptable for the prisoner to occasionally cross over the first line. The second line, the deadline, was less forgiving. If a prisoner crossed the deadline he was immediately shot on sight and killed.

The cruelty of history never ceases to amaze me.

Over time, the term deadline has been softened. It now means the timeframe in which a task must be completed. In the Civil War, crossing the deadline was not an option. You really only had one chance to miss a deadline. Thankfully, we are allowed one or two chances to miss a deadline in today’s day and age.

When I attended the ILCA Leadership Council I learned a quote that I love. “Missing deadlines is a fact of life, but, it is not acceptable to miss a deadline when the group depends on you.” I like that quote because it allows for human fallibility while remaining stern at the same time.

The quote provides a perspective on priority. Not all deadlines are created equal. I often get upset with myself because I fail to get something accomplished by the deadline I set. I will say “I must get my laundry done tonight” and then get upset when I fail to do it because something comes up. The quote provides forgiveness. Who cares if I don’t get my laundry done? The world won’t spin off its axis because I have to use my emergency pair of socks for one day. Sure, I should have tried but it’s not the end of the world if I take one extra day. In the grand scheme of things, that deadline was set by me, for me, and I can give myself a break for missing it.

Yet, the quote also admonishes us. Deadlines matter when others count on us. When the group suffers because I missed a deadline, it is my fault. I can lament that I’m busy, or overstretched, or something came up but those reasons are “not acceptable.” I should have prioritized better because now I am the impediment to progress.

I work with over a dozen committees in my job. These committees are made up of volunteers with full time jobs and not to mention personal lives. It is easy to forget that. These volunteers are saddled with all sorts of deadlines in their professional and private lives. Yet, in order to run ILCA effectively, I must abide by that quote. It does not matter that the volunteer does not get paid. When 9 or 10 other people depend on that volunteer to accomplish a task, it should be accomplished. That goes for me too. When I start lamenting how busy I am, I forget that these volunteers depend on me too. I should have prioritized better, plain and simple. It’s not fair to waste their time and energy because I failed to get my work done.

Not all deadlines are created equal. Sometimes we will stray over that first line with no repercussions. Thank goodness for that. Yet, real deadlines must loom large. Let’s stop beating ourselves up over missing the silly deadlines we set and start investing our time and energy into the deadlines that others depend on. It’s a great feeling to be depended upon even if we can’t always depend on ourselves.

One last bit of advice from the Leadership Council ties it all together, “make a list each morning of what you won’t get accomplished that day. That way, you can avoid the guilt of being human.”


1 Comment so far
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Scott, Is this Scott Grams? Can’t find an attribution. This is really good advice! Roz Reed

Comment by rosalind reed

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