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Omaha Magazine

Otis Twelve: Deadlines

Feb 25, 2021 09:18AM ● By Otis Twelve
Otis Twelve column photo

As a writer, deadlines are part of my profession. Some people work well when given deadlines. Some freeze up under the pressure, while others experience symptoms related to the stress produced by these artificially imposed landmarks such as increased blood pressure, rashes, facial tics, or blender-related injuries when the Drillaud Triple Sec splashes them in the eyes. Some writers have been known to suddenly pack up their laptops, change their names, and leave town in the dark of night, moving to a little walk in Malta, rather than face the expectations placed on them. 

True, we all face deadlines. Every profession, every job, every career involves such pressure.

Over the years, I have found that deadlines come in many guises. In order to protect my mental health, nap times, and paltry fees, it is important that I understand exactly what type of deadline I am facing. This allows me to relax, be more efficient, and know when I can binge watch The Repair Shop, season three, without bothersome guilt or irrational tension regarding whatever particular assignment I am postponing.

Here then is “The Otis Twelve Hierarchy of Deadlines.”  

Absolutely, Positively, Not Kidding, It Has To Be Done By: This is the “date certain” when a task, a project, or an assignment must be completed or else everything will fail; the company will go bankrupt, the bridge will collapse, the rocket will explode on the pad, the car warranty will expire, and/or time itself will end—dark matter will suddenly swallow the strings that create space itself and the reboot of Dune people have been eagerly awaiting will shut down mid-production. Translation: “Get it done within two weeks of the ‘deadline.’”

Positively, Not Kidding, It Has To Be Done By: This is the “critical point” when any goal, aspirational landmark, or delivery date must be met or else the project may fail utterly; something will catch fire, the manager will begin to scream at the employee with the least to-do with the delay, the company will be sold to a Belgium Multinational, the car warranty will expire, and/or the streams of Fate itself will become twisted by Lovecraft’s Dark Powers and all souls will be cast into the eternal Lake of Frozen Fire. Translation: “Get it done within two weeks of the ‘deadline.’”

Not Kidding, It Has To Be Done By: This is the “OMG” moment when any job, assignment, part delivery, or research result must be finished or else heads will roll; the lab will have to be shut down for decontamination, vacations will be canceled, the back of the desk chair will snap when you lean back to stretch your spine, The CEO will call a mandatory staff meeting with no bagels, the car warranty will expire, and/or your one true love will leave you a note that provides you with a lawyer’s phone number and little else. Translation: “Get it done within two weeks of the ‘deadline.’”

It Has To Be Done By: This is when some task must reach a certain point so that the next “It Must Be Done By” can be established or else; the next “It Has To Be Done By” date can’t be set; the receptionist will quit in a huff; FBI agents will show up and seize computers, sticky notes, and filing cabinets; the car warranty will expire; and/or inter-dimensional assassins will suddenly appear at the health club and jump on all the stair steppers ahead of you. Translation: “Get it done within two weeks of the ‘deadline.’”

When Can You Get It Done?:  This is the best kind of deadline. Get it done ASAP. 

Otis Twelve hosts the radio program Early Morning Classics with Otis Twelve on 90.7 KVNO, weekday mornings from 6-10 a.m. Visit for more information.

This article was printed in the March/April 2021 edition of Omaha Magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe. 

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