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What Is "Crunch Time"?

By Alicia Sparks
Updated May 23, 2024
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“Crunch time” is an idiom that carries several different meanings, all of which refer to some sort of deadline. Generally, “crunch time” itself refers to the short time period during which a person or group of people must work quickly to complete a task or make a decision. So, when a person is in crunch time, he is in the time period right before the deadline. For definition purposes, the details of the deadline are less important than the sense of urgency and focus required to meet the deadline. Like many idiomatic expressions, “crunch time” can be used in a variety of professional and personal life situations.

Perhaps two of the most common instances when people experience crunch times are related to school and work. Students, teachers, and principals often experience crunch times throughout the school year. For example, students often experience crunch times before a final exam or research paper, and teachers and principals might refer to the time periods before grades and other kinds of administrative work are due as crunch times. Likewise, employees might refer to the days or even night before an important project is due. A business’s owner or manager might refer to the time before making a presentation to potential new clients as “crunch time.”

Crunch times appear during other professional instances, too. Lawyers and clients experience crunch times during the days leading up to a court case. Building contractors experience crunch times during the days right before a project is scheduled to be complete. Real estate agents experience crunch times during the hours right before they show potential home buyers a house, or right before an open house is scheduled to start. Even professional athletes experience crunch times during the minutes or seconds before the final buzzer sounds on a game.

Of course, people can experience crunch times in other personal, everyday life situations. For example, parents experience crunch times as they complete last-minute packing the night before leaving for family trips. A couple can experience a crunch time as the two make final preparations the night before their wedding. Expecting mothers can experience crunch times as they make final purchases before their babies arrive. Nearly any situation that requires the person to work quickly or hurry to complete tasks saved for last can be described as a crunch time.

Sometimes, “crunch time” refers less to the time before completing a task and more to the time right before someone must reach an important decision. This decision can be anything from which college to attend to how to best divide assets during a divorce. During these kinds of situations, the decision makers can have anywhere from a few minutes to a few days to make the decisions.

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Discussion Comments
By RoyalSpyder — On Feb 15, 2014

@Viranty - Though I agree with you, I feel that it's also important to keep a balance between your aspects of college life. Obviously, you shouldn't spend your college life slacking off and partying, but on the other hand, you shouldn't spend countless hours a day working on papers, unless required. You may have heard the phrase "all work and no play makes Jack a a dull boy". In other words, work is important, but it's always good to keep a balance between that and your friends.

By Viranty — On Feb 14, 2014

@Chmander - Ha ha, yeah. One thing you'll quickly learn about college is that you can't fall behind, and if you do, it's nearly impossible to catch up. I almost learned that the hard way during my freshman year. Having just come out of high school, I thought I had the freedom of doing whatever I wanted, and that I could hang out with whomever I wanted. Though this was true to an extent, I also learned that work comes first and friends come last.

By Chmander — On Feb 14, 2014

@Viranty - Ha ha, you're not the only one who stays on top of things, although it can definitely be hard to notice when so many unprepared college students are scrambling on and about. I'm usually one to turn in my assignments a few days early, which my professors take note of. In my opinion, I think the reason why so many students procrastinate on their work is because they're too occupied doing all of the "fun" things. Once they're finished, they realized that they have a lot to catch up on.

By Viranty — On Feb 13, 2014

Every time I hear the word "crunch time", I'm always reminded of college students scrambling to turn in their papers and projects at the last second. In fact, why do college students always turn in their work so late? I thought college was supposed to prepare you for the real world, not do the exact opposite. Am I the only one who stays on top of my coursework?

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