Picture this: it’s late at night, and you’re working to finish up a presentation that’s due tomorrow. You’re exhausted and you know you’re not doing your best work, but it can’t be helped. You have to just get it done. Can you feel the stress? Everything on this project took longer than you expected, and you waited too long to work on it. You found yourself squeezing in meetings and phone calls at odd hours, because your schedule is just so full. You had to lean hard on your team to expedite the work, and some items that could have been delegated you did yourself, just because there wasn’t enough time to ask someone else to do it. But this is what you have to do if you’re going to be successful and grow your business, right?
Perhaps not. Many of us, when we make a commitment to do something, the first thing we do is look for an opening in our schedules. If there are openings, our natural tendency is to fill them up. This same tendency is why diet experts tell you to eat off of smaller plates – if your plate is larger, you will put more food on it to fill it up. And it’s also the reason why so many business owners get into a time crunch, again and again.
What most of us don’t do when committing to a deadline or event date, is to first look at what needs to get done leading up to that event, determine whether you have time in your schedule to complete that work, and then reserve that time to complete the work.
Most entrepreneurs are overworked. They say yes to opportunities, and figure out how they’re going to squeeze it in later. If you find yourself always operating in last minute panic mode when you get close to a deadline, I have some advice that will change all that!
Let’s say that a company that you really want to work with asks you to be the keynote speaker at an event that they’re sponsoring two months from now. Most of us would look at our calendar, and if we’re free that day, we would say an enthusiastic yes! We may or may not think about what we need to do to prepare for the event at that time. It’s two months away, after all. That should be plenty of time.
However, if you are like most busy business owners, you will continue to fill up your calendar as you go along, and you will soon find yourself pressed for time to prepare for the Keynote. Follow these steps instead, and your business and your life will run more smoothly.
1. Before committing to a deadline, outline the scope of the project. For example, list everything that has to happen, that you are responsible for, before the date of your keynote. The list could look like this:
a. Customize signature presentation
b. Create PowerPoint slides
c. Set up a custom web page for attendees to get additional information
d. Create special report just for attendees
e. Write and set up follow up email sequence for those who sign up for special report
f. Help promote event through social media
g. Weekly phone meetings with event organizers
2. Determine which items you will do yourself and which will be delegated to others.
3. Determine approximately how long each item will take you to complete. Allow time to oversee the work you delegate, and for things to go wrong.
4. This is the most important piece – based on your calculations, look at your schedule and determine if you have time to complete the required tasks.
5. This is the next most important piece. If the answer is yes and you accept the opportunity, schedule the tasks into your calendar IMMEDIATELY. If you need two hours to modify your presentation, schedule it. If you need 5 hours to practice your presentation, schedule it on your calendar. If you don’t, you will find yourself filling your “plate” with other things, and you will end up in panic mode again.
This may seem obvious, but take the time to calculate instead of guesstimating, and you will do your best work and save your sanity at the same time.
I could tell you story after story about how I thought I had plenty of time before a deadline, and was in a panic the day before because I wasn’t done, and I knew I wasn’t doing my best work. I would love to hear your experiences too. And if you’ve found any other tips that help you get things done while keeping your sanity!
Ack! Guilty! Great tips!
Recently I was with a successful financial planner friend and we were looking at going somewhere the next day and trying to plan out if we had enough time to do the many things that needed to get done before our deadline to get to our ultimate destination.
The “planner” she is, she started in on calculating everything, but in reverse – to figure out a solid starting time. I loved this. It work like clockwork. We met every single milestone with a little time to spare and zero stress. In fact, PRIDE in a job well done!
That’s the other part of planning that’s so nice. Not only can you reduce stress, but you can increase pride and satisfaction! It really makes me wonder why I tend to fall back into the panic/stress mode of working so often. But I’m improving.
Adding these tip to my repertoire!
That’s a great tip, Annette! I do the same thing when I know I need to get out the door by a certain time, and it works like a charm. Starting from the end and working backwards can definitely work for planning a project as well. Thanks for sharing!
Great, great, great tip Donna, the challlenge is to get use to do it that way.
That’s very true, Rodrigo! I think if you imagine the reward of getting your projects done well, the way you want to do them, without the stress, really visualize it, it will give you enough motivation to try it once. And once it works for you once, that’s the motivation to do it again, and again, until it becomes a habit.
Great tips, Donna!! I should be using this type of planning with every project but I get lazy with planning!! Too busy to plan, too busy not to plan!!