Deadlines and just in time

Deadlines, just in time, slack, dynamic programming, scheduling are all buzz words in time management and operations research. How do you apply them to real life?


There’s something magical about having a deadline. Suddenly I’m driven to meet it. Where no deadline existed before, there is now a raison d’etre.

Dynamic planning is the art of starting from the end — the deadline — and working yourself backwards to the present. It’s an optimisation technique which, in its simplest form, can be applied to your daily scheduling. If your concert starts at 3 pm, you should aim to get there by 2 pm to get used to the acoustics and the instrument (if it’s a piano or organ). If you have to submit your chapter by a certain date, you should give yourself a day to review what you’ve written, and have finished before that.

The term “just in time” is a popular concept in manufacturing, to avoid waste of time and resources. It could easily be the opposite of what we think of as “slack.”

I’ve gotten so accustomed to operating in “just in time” that I’ve given myself no slack, even when it comes to deadlines.

How often have I glanced at the clock and tried to race against time? It’s 3:10 pm HST. The swimming pool closes at 4:30 pm. All lifeguards are flexible with the closing time except for one. If he’s on duty, then I’m doomed. I should change into my swim wear and drive to the pool, shower, swim, and finish by 4:25 pm to allow time for a shower. Often my plan gets interrupted by last minute phone calls that leaves me with 20 minutes of lap time instead of 30. That’s when I wish I had built in some slack.

Perhaps I should mentally tell myself that the deadline is 4 pm not 4:30 pm if I want to swim my laps in the pool. Likewise, I should aim to bring my own deadline forward — before the REAL deadline, when it comes to writing. If not, it becomes one of crisis management.

You could say it’s exciting to live on the edge, constantly racing against time. Doesn’t it feel good to get to your seat just when the concert is about to start? Or arrive at the train station just when the train is pulling in? On the other hand, if you’re slightly late and miss the train, you’d feel down right awful. You’d feel guilty interrupting the concert and missing the opening.

Living in “just in time” means always being on the run. No time for reflection. No time for pauses. No time for yourself.

That’s why the just-in-time approach to meeting deadlines can be detrimental to the time-challenged individual.

Author: BLOGmaiden

As one of the earliest bloggers (since 1999), I enjoy meeting people who embrace "out-of-the-box" thinking and fear not the unknown. I believe in collaboration for sustainability because it increases stakeholder value.

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