October 14, 2005

The interpretation of deadlines.

If you've got a deadline on Friday, and you email about whether it would be okay to take until Monday, and they don't answer the email right away, that means they aren't sitting around waiting for it today, and it's the same as an extension until Monday. Right?

Yesterday, I had a deadline that was "the close of business Thursday." I sent the draft at 5:59 p.m. Did I meet the deadline? It's more business-y to work late, isn't it? It's a slackerish businessperson who leaves at 5. And don't you love the 59? It makes it look as though I was all briskly focused on 6 as "the close of business." And what's with "the close of business" as a deadline anyway? If you're clocking out at the end of the work day, why not say "before the open of business Friday"? Why deprive me of the evening if I might happen to have writing habits of that sort?

26 comments:

SippicanCottage said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
smilerz said...

Every business I've ever worked for "close of business" has always meant before I get in the next day.

StrangerInTheseParts said...

Yeah you made the deadline....but your line "It's more business-y to work late, isn't it?" smacks of defensiveness and insecurity about barely making the deadline.

Isn't it more business-y to get things in an hour or two before the last minute?

And the "It makes it look as though I was all briskly focused on 6 as "the close of business." is even more lame.

You cut it as close as you can and you know it! Fess up! What do you say to students who deliver papers due on a certain date at 11:59pm of said date?

Freeman Hunt said...

What do you say to students who deliver papers due on a certain date at 11:59pm of said date?

You can't deliver them. You have to slide them under the office door and then scamper away as quickly as possible. :)

Dale B said...

For me, usually, it's as smilerz said, when I start work the next work day.

mgarbowski said...

"Close of business" varies with context. For NY attorneys, 6pm is close of business. That's when receptionists leave at most firms. Attorneys almost always work later, but that is after close of business. Still, when I am directed to send something by "close of business" I usually confirm the time. Outside of law, and outside of NY, I presume 5 pm.

But the purpose of the deadline also is relevant. For a draft, I would presume (unless otherwise directed) that the recipient wants to read it that evening, possibly on the train ride or at home. Yes, there's a good chance they won't look at it until tomorrow morning, but this presumption keeps me out of trouble.

As for your original question, that's a dangerous assumption, as your (I think) playful tone implies you are aware. Your deadline-maker (a client?) could just be in a meeting, and expects the work product today to read over the weekend. Why deprive that person of reading during the weekend if he or she might have work habits of that sort?

Robert said...

I always assume that people I give deadlines too are lazy, lying slackers. So I lie about the deadline, and give them one that's three days ahead of the real deadline. The prompt courteous professionals get it in three days early, so I can get a jump start if needed. The slackers and liars start the spinning and asking for extensions, and most of the time I actually have their work by the real deadline, plus the side benefit of being "what a great guy" for showing forebearance.

Murky Thoughts said...

I think this problem is chronic. I almost wish Miss Manners would weigh in, except I suppose the flexibility does grease the social wheels. The hard ass making you kill yourself to meet the end of Friday deadline can pretend they'd meant for you to take the weekend or you the slacker can take an extra few days without being late.

me said...

COB is not b/4 you get in the next day. That is you will have ______ before work on ________.

The difference can be significant, if the person wants to read it in the evening.

Law professors, rightly or wrongly, have a repuation of never being punctual, so if you are close to the deadline, you are probably early for a law professor, kind of like LA time, where someone is always late because of the traffic.

Attila said...

This case might be relevant: United States v. Locke, 471 U.S. 84 (1985). (I know we're not really talking law here.)

A filing deadline of "prior to December 31" was held to mean no later than December 30, even though it looked like it meant "by the end of the year." The party filing on December 31 in that case was outta luck.

BrianOfAtlanta said...

If your client asks for your response by COB on a certain date, you could do what my office mates and I did once, find someone with an old corn field and fill your client's inbox with your response.

Of course, while gratifying, this does nothing to solve the time problem.

Sloanasaurus said...

Having something done by the end of the day means being done before the opening of business the next day.

Ann Althouse said...

Note: It's not a client, in either case. I don't have clients. I'm not currently a lawyer. The "close of business" one was for a newspaper, and the Friday one is something else, for which I am not being paid. I'm seeking an extension but not hearing an answer. I'm really pretty good about deadlines. I like them. If I stop taking them seriously -- as I've heard most lawprofs do -- how will I get things done? You need something to push up against for energy and focus.

Paul said...

Regardless, if it's coming from you, it's worth waiting for. I can't believe no one else said this first.

JBlog said...

"Close of business" is before you leave that day or before 8 a.m. the next day, whichever comes first.

But if I said COB, and I log on at 9 p.m. and don't see it in my in-basket, I'm gonna wanna know why.

About the only answers I'm going to accept are:

-- My appendix exploded and I'm on my way to the hospital;

-- I've been busy saving orphans from a burning building;

-- And/or I'm still working on it and it will be in your in-basket by 8 a.m. tomorrow.

jeff said...

COB for me is 5pm.

Try and get in touch with me after that and you'd better have my cell #...

And if you are a customer it's really unlikely.

Gerry said...

"Regardless, if it's coming from you, it's worth waiting for"

We need to set you up with Harriet Miers.

Paul said...

Well, okay, but she's got to curb her use of eyeliner.

Kathy Herrmann said...

If someone tells me end of day, then I take the most liberal view and assume that means when I close down my day (which theoretically means that I have until 11:59:59 pm).

Hence my own policy of removing deadline interpretation by giving a specific deadline date and time. :-)

amba said...

Why deprive the editor of the evening to read and edit your piece if s/he happens to have work habits of that sort? ;)

Actually, as a writer, I'm on your side (of the fence -- literally, and often). It just occurred to me that that might be the editor's reason for setting the deadline that way. (Occurred to others too, I see -- commenting before reading all the rest of the comments.)

Dean said...

I anticipate reading the op/ed in my Sunday paper.

"Close of business" implied previously that if someone wanted to work on your piece when they got to work on Friday (so it could appear in the early Sunday [which comes out Saturday] paper), they would be assured of having it there with that deadline.

In these days of email, as long as it's there when they get to work on Friday, there should be no problem.

Mark Kaplan said...

The purpose of many deadlines is to treat all respondents equally. When there is a competition no participant should be given more time than any other.

Richard Lawrence Cohen said...

I recently worked on a frelance writig assignment -- for a publishing company owned by a prominent conservative -- in which "close of business" officially meant before 6 am the following business day. "Close of business Thursday" would be 6 am Friday.

Wave Maker said...

Obviously, "Close of Business" means different things to different people -- therefore it is ambiguous, and should not be used by a manager/requester who is expecting a time certain. So, "by 6:00 pm" (or whatever) is simpler, shorter, and not susceptible to interpretation.

Gustavo Muñoz said...

"If you're clocking out at the end of the work day, why not say "before the open of business Friday"? Why deprive me of the evening if I might happen to have writing habits of that sort?"
-Because maybe some decisions have to be made by Friday 9AM.
Maybe the guy who will review the draft will read it in the evening and prepare some slides for a presentation Friday 9AM.

Benjamin Hechter said...

Thank you all for an interesting discussion. I think the interpretation weighs heavily on whether you are the information producer of information consumer.

As the information producer, I prefer the option of start of business next day as a reserve.

If I use that time well to produce one iteration higher level of quality, to me that is better that delivering something that just meets the minimum standards.

Or I this just a rationalization?

Ben Hechter