On Deadlines

Unexpectedly the origins of the word deadline appear in a book I am reading. The book mentions Benson John Lossing’s “History of the Civil War” (1868) and describes the birth of the word. “Deadline” is said to have appeared for the first time during the Civil War when a general in charge of a military prison, having a shortage of supplies and therefore no fence, drew a line around the perimeter of the prison. If any prisoner crossed the line and attempted to escape soldiers were authorized to shoot to kill. 

“Seventeen feet from the inner stockade was the ‘dead-line’, over which no man could pass and live.”

The birth of the word as serious, intense and stressful as the feelings we experience when approaching our version of a deadline. 

And a deadline is something else too. 

Despite the troubling circumstances the dead-line was a clever solution to what was a real problem for that general. 

Next time you find yourself starring at deadlines feeling like they are the enemy remember that deadlines are part of the solution to the problem you are trying to solve.