On the Importance of a Deadline.

Jenn Ashton
Jul 11 · 4 min read

In my lifetime, a deadline was something we learned how to plan for and meet. It was a sign of maturity when we could master it, an outward indication of self-control. People who met deadlines were a pleasure to work with and could be counted on. For me specifically, it meant increased opportunities and promotions. The ability to meet a deadline meant you could be trusted to take on important time-sensitive work and come through under pressure.

Not meeting a deadline therefor meant you were unable to complete your task in the allotted amount of time. It meant that somebody who was reliant upon you or your product or service had to wait or it meant that the chain of the thing had to be broken. Apologies had to be given, bad feelings were had and potentially jobs and productivity were lost. In school if you failed to have work completed on time, points were deducted, you did not move forward. Bills need to be paid, or interest will accrue. This is the way things work. Generally.

To my surprise, this concept has become antiquity without our even knowing it. Somebody had the idea to ‘extend’ a deadline and now others are taking suit. For mysterious reasons unknown, usually deemed “…out of our control…” or for “various” numbers of them, deadlines have been moved, extended, and pushed back. You will still have ‘one more week, one more month or one more day’ to get your work in.

Because I am not of that world, and meeting deadlines is very important to me because I know that if I do not, others will suffer down the line, (and maybe I will too), I don’t understand the inner working of this new secretive, executive decision, but I feel there could be a number of contributing factors.

a) The Contest or Call has not received the allotted number of entries or submissions.

b) The Contest or Call has not received the allotted ‘variety’ of submissions e.g. from a number of unnamed marginalized groups possibly including groups labelled by ability, gender, sexual orientation or location.

c) The person or people running the Contest or Call are at fault and for whatever reason could not keep up their end of the commitment. Or perhaps they were holding the door open for a friend (our minds go to all kinds of places).

Although this seems harmless enough, imagine the chaos if people in other industries adopted this method of work ethic. How would it work? Would you be able to meet your connecting flight? Would you receive your loan in time to pay your school fees? Would you be delivering your own baby? Do you expect your paycheque on a specific date? No matter the extreme example, it would all end in chaos.

And chaos is what I feel in my mind, when I have worked hard on a piece, carefully allotting my time to edit and review, to paint edges and prepare a piece for shipping, or ensuring a written piece has gone through its evolutions in order for it to be submitted on time, only to read afterwards that the deadline has been extended, exclamation mark, like this, is my lucky day. But it doesn’t feel like my lucky day. Instead, I feel a bit like the rug has been torn out from under me. What shaky ground is this that I am standing on, where the rules for me are different from the rules for you? Why are you, unnamed people, allowed this precious ‘extension’? What emergency of life has prevented you from completing your task on time?

Do you need to send a Doctor’s note or a note from your mother to say why you are late?

The morale that kept me going is now sucked out of me.

With a few swift keystrokes, you have lightened your load and added a burden to mine. Not only has my morale been crushed, but I now have shaved a few points of respect off of you and/or your institution, publication, gallery etc., especially if I have had to pay a fee to submit.

But, to keep this piece positive and in order to encourage you the gatekeeper, back to the old ways, I will offer some suggestions here to remedy some of the invisible(to me)‘various’ issues you may be facing, that may require you to extend your deadline.

1) Set a goal and stick to it. This is by far the easiest one to do. If your own internal goals and numbers are not met this time, change your strategy for next time, and use this as a learning tool. Find your weak link and repair it.

2) Be proactive(see above). From the beginning of your campaign, encourage submissions from certain groups, if this is one of your problems. Advertise where these groups are found (I suspect this particular reason may be playing a role in the eruption of extended deadlines these days).

3) Be transparent. If you absolutely have to extend your deadline, we are much more readily able to accept a deadline moved because you have not had enough submissions by a certain group(see above), than for no reason at all, which honestly, only serves to make you look bad. The term ‘wishy-washy’ comes to mind. Constantly making promises you can’t keep reduces your credibility. Nobody wants to continually hear excuses.

As a professional artist and writer, having my work shown and published keeps up my own credibility, which then suffers if deadlines are not met. I base my schedules on your needs, so you see how this works.

In the end, my work is my livelihood and I take it seriously. I just wanted you to know.

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