PSA: Deadlines

If you want me to do something for you and I say I will, I will ask you to give me a deadline. Once I have the deadline, I will do my best (and will usually succeed) to deliver what I promised by said deadline.

BY SAID DEADLINE. This means not much before the deadline. Actually, it often means exactly on the day of the deadline.

DO NOT pester me twice a week within the three weeks preceding the deadline. This annoyance will not make me work faster (I am already working as fast as I can, trust me) or help me prioritize what you need over other things. It will just make me even more pissed, and I am always plenty pissed to begin with.

If I am late, then by all means remind me that I am late.

But if you really wanted your stuff three weeks earlier, then you should have made that your deadline. Otherwise, bugger off and don’t bother me until the deadline.


  1. I’m like you. You would think it would be obvious, but I think a lot of people’s brains don’t work the way ours do. I have some wonderful colleagues who, if you give them a task of this sort, they drop everything else and attend to it immediately, and I mean immediately: if not, they won’t ever do it at all.
    Then, twice in the last two weeks, I was part of ad-hoc groups of colleagues coming together to start working on collaborations: big-grant-like thingies, let’s say. Both group leaders set deadlines about 10 days for so, for us to provide our feedback/suggestions/responses/needs//preliminary writeups/letters of collaboration by (tomorrow). In the case of one group, after no one provided their feedback by the end of the very next day, the leader wrote to all of us a note saying basically how disappointed he was that no one had provided their writeups yet, and that he was sad to see that we all must not be interested in the project after all. In the other case, the project organizer started sending me progressively more panicked messages on Monday that I hadn’t provided my preliminary budget yet- he asked for us to provide them by Friday of that week…

  2. I agree with this… one exception– I don’t mind getting a reminder a few days in advance that a deadline is coming up.

    For example, I almost missed a slides deadline last week because I had the due date a month off in my day planner, but the reminder 3 days prior allowed me plenty of time to get it out to them. It was a nice little reminder that just had the list of deadlines with the one coming up in red (the rest in black) and a little reminder at the top saying, “Reminder, a deadline is coming up”. Nothing panicked, just matter-of-fact.

  3. Yeah. If it’s super important, like really, maybe a reminder is okay…but mostly, yes, I don’t EVER miss a deadline and just want to be left alone. I’m a bit proactive here in that I’m also really clear with flexible things (like student letters) of when I’ll do it up front.

  4. Meh. I don’t mind a reminder here and there — I’d MUCH rather send a two-second email that says “On it!” than miss an application deadline and have a student miss out on a job or grad school opportunity as a result. But maybe the older I get, the grumpier I’ll get, who knows? 🙂

  5. Yes, please remind us… short and sweet and in advance. Especially for something that is not extremely regular or obvious. I got a message today from someone saying, “your semiannual report on [thing] is due tomorrow, I’ll be expecting it on time.” This was the first I’d heard of a semiannual report being required. not good. As opposed to another project where we have to write semiannual reports: even though we’ve been doing so for years, the person in charge reminds us nicely and briefly a month in advance, then two weeks in advance, and a week in advance. That’s fine by me.

  6. I totally agree, except I’m also happy to receive one reminder a few days (or a week, depending on the time frame) ahead of time of the due date (no pestering, just a reminder).

    I had a student (young and naive) ask me for a letter of reference recently. I asked for the deadline. I planned to write the letter before the deadline. A few days before he sent me a panicked e-mail saying he needed it right away. The web submission said I still had a day to upload it, so it wasn’t clear to me why he was so panicked. I didn’t answer his e-mail right away. The next day (one day before the deadline, one day after his e-mail), I wrote the letter and went to upload it. The system wouldn’t let me in saying the letter requested had withdrawn his request. I guess he panicked when I didn’t respond right away and had somebody else write the letter for him (but did not inform me about this). I was pretty ticked. He was really apologetic and he’s really young (high school), so I hope this was a good learning experience for him.

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