- "We are down to the wire here. Finish it quickly, so we aren't late."
- "We only have a few more bugs to fix, but we are down to the wire here, team. Let's not deliver late!"
Waiting until the last minute to finish something. It also could mean the last days, hours or minutes before something is due.
Does it have a good meaning?
Yes and no.
For instance, if the team only has a few days left to finish a project, and the manager may say, "Let's see how we can better organize ourselves to finish this on time, as we are down to the wire here." In this context, the idiom has a good meaning as we are trying to be encouraging and have team spirit.
Let's see another example. The project was delivered exactly on time, and the team was stressed. The US client may say, "While we are happy the project is delivered on time, it seems there is a consistent pattern of work being done down to the wire." This does not have a good meaning. The American manager is delivering constructive criticism. In a nutshell, he is saying, "You always wait until the last minute to do the work. Where are your time management skills?"
How do you respond? Well, if a manager were not happy, in addition to the words, his or her tone of voice may sound lower. In this case, he or she is looking for an apology and may be looking to initiate a discussion on time management, where things went wrong or right from both sides.
Cultural notes on view of time:
Note, that while being down to the wire is not always considered bad time management in India, to Americans and most Westerners a consistent pattern of waiting until the last minute to finish a job is considered unprofessional, bad time management, and in some cases basis for getting fired from a job if done continuously.
Video tutorial showcasing the idiom "down to the wire" from a sports angle:
As a part of the US Culture Training, participants learn about common iditoms used at work with Americans. For more information on the US culture training and related programs, click here.
When do Americans think one is late or early?
Examples of idioms being used in sentences
More than 20 idioms to learn