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Deadlines are optional

I love deadlines. I love the whooshing sound they make as they fly by. 

I believe that was written by Douglas Adams but frankly, it could have been written by my Assistant. My assistant is great. He’s a kid fresh out of college with lots of ideas and creativity. Sadly he can’t use punctuation nor spelling in his native language and he has an issue with deadlines.

Martin (we’ll call him Martin because that’s his name) seems to think that deadlines are something that happen to other people. My highly dysfunctional office has an issue with communication and for that very reason I like to take a very communicative approach with my assistants. At the beginning of the day I give each of them a briefing of what absolutely must be done by the end of the day, what must be done by the end of the week, and what must be done within the next couple of weeks. My modus operandi is that if you can’t finish your task on time you must tell me before the deadline so that we can work something out together, and Martin knows this well. He knows that if his daily tasks aren’t completed bad things will happen in a “let me explain what a deadline is yet again while I shake my head at you disapprovingly” kind of way.

He writes things down. He makes a to-do list. He gets easily distracted by shiny objects and colourful marker pens, mismanages his time and comes to me five minutes before his deadline looking sheepish with unfinished work littered with spelling mistakes. It is then up to me to find a solution while I curse him under my breath before my boss decides to get involved and has a Trump-like meltdown in incomprehensible regional Spanish.

Now the thing about Martin is that he is aware of his time management issue, but he makes up for it with wonderful willingness to, well… make up for it. He’ll do whatever I suggest to improve his output. Hell, I could ask him to hop on one leg and clap his hands and he’d probably do it.

As a foreigner with a different work culture I find it extremely irritating. As someone who has been here for a couple of years now I’ve come to accept that I’ll never find the perfect assistant for the crappy salary we are paying, and I just need to keep on top of him to make sure shit gets done.

Often local young adults are not as good at adulting as their American or European peers. In Europe we move out when we turn eighteen and go to university, pay our own bills and rent, and cook our own food. Often dinner means Pot Noodle sandwiches or cheesy chips from the chippy on the way home from the pub, and rent means a big placard in the front garden that reads “Louis, pay your share you dodgy bastard” but at least we are (more or less) fully functioning adults. Here however, people tend to live with their parents until they are in their late 20s or even early 30s. Your average Latin American gets married before your average European and they go from living with their parents to living with their spouse and before you know it they get busy popping out little mini-them. This doesn’t really give people the time to explore life as a single, young independent adult and in my experience, it shows in the work environment. And not just for underpaid entry-level assistants, it extends to middle and upper management.

And as for Martin? He’s a genius with software and he has potential and a sunny disposition so I’m not giving up on him.

This post first appeared on The Monkey Factory, please read the originial post: here

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Deadlines are optional


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