Nothing is so fatiguing as the eternal hanging on of an uncompleted task. ~William James

Friday, September 10, 2010

Ode to the 11th Hour

The eleventh hour is the last possible moment at which something can be done, or [sic] which problems or solutions might arise. The phrase “at the eleventh hour" became popular in the 19th century, but was in use much earlier. It alludes specifically to the book of Matthew in the New Testament (20:2-16).  This account in Matthew is a parable regarding workers who arrive at the eleventh hour of the workday and are still paid a full day’s wage. [Wise Geek]
So having written yesterday's post (the day before) about working ahead, I am writing today's at the 11th hour about--what else?

The 11th hour is a procrastinator's ace-in-the-hole, Plan B, our saving grace.  

The Urban Dictionary tells us that the phrase is 
[u]sed to describe the final moments of a given event, or situation where change is still a possibility. Right before a deadline.
I procrastinated all night and now, in the 11th hour, I need to work my ass off to finish this report moments before it is due. gives us this rhapsodic family of synonyms:  

high time, just in time, last minute, nick of time, the last moment, zero hour, last-ditch, desperate, do-or-die, final, frantic, last-chance, last-gasp, last-resort, late, not on time, backward, behind, behind time, behindhand, belated, blown, delayed, dilatory, gone, held up, hung up, in a bind, in the lurch, jammed, lagging, missed the boat, out of luck, overdue, postponed, put off, remiss, slow, stayed, strapped, tardy, too late, unpunctual, latest possible moment, high time, under the wire
I have fond memories of discovering the 11th hour as an undergraduate, along with ultra-caffeinated coffee and cigarettes.  None of these contributed to health, but the heady mixture lent an aura of brilliance--or was it hypomania and sleepless hallucination?--to the products of my all-nighters.  Or so I thought.  It probably didn't help that I managed to get away with this sleight-of-hand all too often.  I had teachers comment, on papers I had pulled out of a hat the night before the semester's end, that I had obviously been working diligently all along, and that my "research" was presented in a balanced and well-organized way.  Such misreadings just fanned the flames of my slovenly study habits and total disregard for time.

I affected a bohemian persona that flitted through life, yanking projects out of the fire, racing against deadlines, always on the brink of disaster.  I thought it was exciting.

I am learning, at this late date (at life's 11th hour?), that there is much to be said for anticipating, for methodical effort, and for beating the rush.  I don't often crunch through those frantic final moments anymore.  I am developing talents other than the high-wire act that was too much a feature of my previous work life.

Tonight, I trust, will be an exception in this new era of working in the daylight.  If it kindles a bit of nostalgia, it is still unlikely to lure me back to my tightrope days--with or without a net.

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