Deadlines, Efficiency, and the Value of Time [Archives:1998/04/Viewpoint]

January 26 1998

One of the key characteristics of working in the media is the concept of deadlines. Everything has a deadline. Everybody is under some kind of time pressure. While this pressure may not be good for one’s health, it is a wonderful contributor for efficiency.
Actually deadlines are frequent in many societies, notably the advanced ones. It is a direct reflection of the importance of time within the value system of the community. Thus, everything has a deadline. This is a key reason why things get done, and hence the high level of efficiency.
Here in Yemen, there is hardly any deadline. Getting anything done is a real problem as work lingers on and on, and not many people seem to mind. In fact, the very concept of deadline is virtually non-existent. To prove the point, let me just point out that there is no Arabic word for deadline. So, if you want to state a deadline in Arabic, you have to use a sentence; i.e., say ‘the last day for completing this work/project/etc. is ….’ or in Arabic “akher mow’id li-injaz hadhal ‘amal/mashroo’/ilakh huwa ….’.
I am asking our linguists to come up with a word for deadline. I am also asking our educators to instill the concept of deadline in the value system of our society. This is so crucial in a world in which time in increasingly precious.
The value of time should be one of the key aspects in our way of thinking. If a society is oblivious to time, it is definitely primitive, or at least backward, even if it has modern airports, and lots of machines. I believe that our political, economic, cultural and social leaders have a duty to insist on a better understanding of and interaction with time. This is a vital factor in our ability to join the 21st century.
Let us take examples. Do we as Yemenis show up on time for appointments? Do we respond promptly to letters and other messages? Do our bureaucrats show up for work on time? Do they stay for the whole work time? Do they perform their duties, such as paperwork, without undue delay? Do our students show up for school on time? Do they undertake their studying on a regular basis with an eye to time? Do our officials make their decisions in good time? The answer to most of those questions is “No!”.
The concept of deadline and the value of time are two crucial differences that separate us Yemenis from the rest of the world. And we are on the wrong side of the equation. It is in our interest to start working to join the rest of the world, by emphasizing those values in our society.
The local media, which is quite conscious of both values, could play a major role in stressing them to the general public. Our senior officials can also play as role-models.
This is not a political matter. It is more like a socio-cultural matter. Could our society interact with it in an objective way with adequate commitment? It could be our ticket to a better future.

By: Pro. Abdulaziz Al-Saqqaf Editor-in-Chief and Publisher