Just in time


I’m hastily typing away at my laptop in the dark; I have a deadline coming up. Students live from assignment to assignment, with idle time in between. You calculate the time needed for an assignment and then start – too late – forcing you to work late nights. That is the way of working that deadline-oriented education teaches us.

In professional life, deadlines are a little different. They come in many degrees of flexibility and with a wide range of possible consequences. Just look at the now 5-month-old cabinet formation process. At the university, it’s all quite straightforward: low grade, retake the course, a year of study delay.  While it’s important for the talent of the future to be able to work according to a schedule, this is an oversimplification of the complex consideration between quality and time investment. And being able to make that consideration is an essential skill.  

Outside of university, deadlines are useless. There is no deadline for cleaning, so many students live in their own mess. Is giving students a cleaning schedule the only way to get them to clean up? Yes, if the learned standard for urgency and consequence is based on deadlines, it is.  

However, when it comes to the things that are truly important in life, such as your relationships with others, you shouldn’t set deadlines. There is no end date; and it’s never finished. You have to rely on your own feelings about how important something is to you, what it brings and costs you. Those are different aspects than the ones taught to me at university. 

Even though I sometimes procrastinate myself, I try to start on time with an “I’ll work on it until I’m satisfied” mentality. Because of this, it usually takes even more time and it certainly requires more intrinsic motivation and energy. I’m no didactician or pedagogue, but it feels like such a mentality is more instructive than working to meet a deadline. Fortunately, it’s often finished when it needs to be, including this column, just in time for the deadline. 

Tim de Jong studies Industrial Design at TU/e .

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