Author + information
- Anthony N. DeMaria, MD, MACC, Editor-in-Chief, Journal of the American College of Cardiology∗ ()
Address for correspondence to:
Dr. Anthony N. DeMaria, Editor-in-Chief, Journal of the American College of Cardiology, 3655 Nobel Drive, Suite 630, San Diego, California 92112
I am looking out at the sea from our secluded cabin in what must be one of the greatest resorts in the world, Lizard Island. The island sits off the coast of Australia in the middle of the Great Barrier Reef. There are only 40 rooms on this naturally-preserved tropical paradise that offers spectacular snorkeling, diving, fishing, boating, nature walks, or just lying around on a hammock and reading. By now, I assume you are asking yourself, why in heaven's name am I sitting at a desk and writing this Editor's Page when I could be enjoying any of the above activities. The answer is that, sadly, I have let this task go until the last minute. Having already bared my soul about being an inefficient provider and received the support of so many others who have the same malady, I thought I might as well confess to one of the other faults to which I am occasionally susceptible.
My wife and I are taking a summer vacation that coincides with our wedding anniversary. We planned this trip long ago when we were invited to lecture in Australia at a cardiology meeting. I knew at that time that an Editor's Page would be due while we were on holiday, and made a vow that I would write this article before leaving San Diego. However, as has become a bit more common lately, I had a number of other obligations to complete. Obviously, reviewing and processing manuscripts and arranging issues receive the highest priority, and I just never had time to write the Editor's Page. Given the publication timetable of the Journal, I was facing an immutable deadline and had to get this in at the last moment.
I have thought long and hard about just how I have increasingly found myself in the position of a last-minute person. Looking back, it is clear that this behavior developed gradually over time. Upon beginning my fellowship, I usually had presentations and papers etc. completed weeks before they were due. However, after becoming busier, I began to wait longer to prepare things that did not require immediate attention. I soon found that I could let work go until just a week before it was due, and subsequently to be successful even finishing only days before the deadline. I gradually let the time of completion prior to being due get shorter and shorter until I reached the last possible moment. I had therefore conditioned myself to be able to wait until the waning hours before undertaking certain tasks. Further, my staff recognized this tendency and, although not approving, adjusted their own behavior to accommodate my habits. In a sense, they became enablers.
As time has gone on, more chores have been relegated to the last minute. I am not sure if it is just that I have become much busier or also just less capable of handling all the tasks I have undertaken. In any event, it seems that often my daily life has been largely analogous to that of a juggler. A well-trained juggler knows that at any given time there are several balls in the air that are falling toward the ground. However, he or she has to devote immediate attention to catching the one ball that is closest to hitting the ground. I know that at any given time I am facing multiple cut-off dates, but I have to devote full effort to the one that is nearest to the last minute. Having survived that test, I just turn to the next closest deadline, in what can sometimes become a self-perpetuating cycle.
On reflection, an additional factor seems to be contributing to the increasing last-minute situations in which I find myself. The challenge of an impending deadline typically produces anxiety that leads to a burst of nervous stimulation and energy. It has been simple for me to convert this energy into a period of clear focus and productivity. It is easy to begin to depend on this stimulation to get things done. Conversely, the absence of an impending deadline can lead to a more relaxed and less efficient approach. My longtime assistant believes that I have become habituated to the surge of energy that comes with a rapidly approaching due date, and depend upon it to achieve maximal productivity.
It goes without saying that waiting as long as possible to complete some task also enables one to include any last-minute developments. Newspapers and television reports typically delay finalizing each edition so as not to miss any late-breaking events. This is certainly a very justifiable reason to delay completion of some undertaking. While this is a factor in some of the last-minute situations in which I find myself, I cannot say that it is usually the major consideration.
I can take some solace in knowing that I am not the only person in the world who occasionally lets things wait until the last moment. Many of our reviewers wait until we initiate withdrawal before submitting their evaluations. We, as others, have found that when we have deadlines, such as for focus issues, the overwhelming majority of articles are submitted in the last day or two, regardless of how much advance time is provided. So, “last minute-itis” is probably a relatively common condition. Equally prevalent is the need to pay a price for the delayed completion. Nevertheless, I cannot remember a time when I have paid as dear a price as I am paying now for not having adequately planned to do this Page in advance. So, having confessed this fault, I am going to vow never to let it happen again, and put my other obligations aside so that I can get my fins and mask and go snorkeling.
- American College of Cardiology Foundation