April 8th, 2014
By Chris Merrington
Do you sometimes feel you have less and less time to do more and more? Do you start the day with an ever-longer to-do list and wondering how you will manage it all? Do you strive for perfection when sometimes ‘good enough’ would be sufficient? Are you drowning in a tide of information?
Let’s face it, if there’s one thing almost all of us could do with more of, its time.
Many of us never seem to be able to escape this sense of being overwhelmed because our typical reaction to having too much on our plates is to work longer, work harder and run faster from one task to another. It’s not just pressure from your clients and colleagues: rushing becomes a habit. And like all habits, it can be broken.
Rushing doesn’t have to be our “new normal”. And there are good reasons why not. Because when we rush, we don’t perform at our best. We do work which is ‘ok’. And as we all know, however tight a client might make out that a deadline is, once we’ve delivered, the deadline gets forgotten and what matters is the quality of what we have delivered them. It’s the old conundrum: “do you want my first idea or my best idea?”
Being in a rush also makes us more likely to make mistakes – which only increases the pressure on us because we need to take more time to put things right, not to mention the fact that clients and colleagues seem to have an uncanny knack of remembering our mistakes long after we’ve rectified them.
So what are the lessons we can learn from this? How can we stop juggling and take back control of our lives and our work?
1. Try to be the best at what you do best. Know your own strengths and be outstanding at one or two things. That’s far more effective than being average at lots of things.
2. Focus on your priorities first. Have clear goals and avoid being distracted by the minutiae of business. The more senior we are the more vital it is to take time to stop, think and plan. Decide what is urgent and what is important and don’t let the urgent take precedence over the important. Find time to slow down – at least an hour each day, two or three hours a week, a day a month – to really think.
3. Push back. Be brave and push back on ridiculous deadlines or unrealistic budgets. You won’t always win, but you will some of the time. Think carefully before you automatically say ‘yes’ to every potential client or every new demand. Half of your problems are probably caused by you saying ‘yes’ too easily.
4. Get away from your desk. Our best ideas often come spontaneously when we are least expecting them. So give them a chance. They might come when we’re walking the dog, swimming, in the shower or weeding the garden. Find out what pushes your creative buttons.
5. Build a support network. Solving problems on your own can be overwhelming and we can easily get emotionally entangled in our issues. If you’re a member of an Academy group, you’ll know how valuable it is to have people whose opinions and judgement you respect as a sounding board. Having to explain your challenges to others forces you to clarify your thinking and their responses will bring fresh perspectives.
6. Anticipate what is likely to happen. Consider the various options that are likely and how you will respond. When we are under pressure we often don’t think through the implications of our options and decisions. Take control of your future. If you don’t then who else will?
7. Find ways to be more effective on tasks which are repeated. How can you find systems and methods of working to reduce the time involved and improve the quality. Don’t reinvent the wheel.
8. Finally, do it, delegate it, or dump it. Don’t procrastinate. Be decisive.