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Clare Gerada explains why she has learnt to ignore arbitrary deadlines, in our video of the week.

“I’ve been given lots of advice in my career, but I think the most useful advice I’ve ever been given is that deadlines are man-made, so you can always leave until tomorrow what could be done today because by tomorrow it will usually disappear.

Now, of course, you’ve got to temper that. I couldn’t possibly leave something that was patient-related until tomorrow, but on the whole, you will be amazed how often somebody asks you to do something, to write something, to read something, to contact somebody, and then comes and says, ‘Don’t worry.’ Now you could have spent hours doing it.

I’ve been asked, for example, to write or edit reports, big pieces of work. And then two or three days later someone will say, ‘We haven’t actually finished our bit, we’ll send it to you when it’s sorted,” and you think, “Well, I could have spent three or four hours doing that piece of work for nothing.’

On the whole, people will say, ‘I need that in by close of play Friday’ Actually, it could be close of play Monday, because they’re not going to read it on a Friday or over the weekend, so it always gives you two or three more days.

So I always ask: ‘Really, what is the deadline? What is your requirement?’ Not set an arbitrary deadline.
People often give themselves a two-week window, so they want you to hand something in two weeks ahead to give themselves longer. And, again, it’s negotiable.

So that is probably the single piece of advice: always leave ’til tomorrow what could be done today, because you’ll find that it disappears.”

This is an abridged transcript of the video lesson – watch the video for the full story!