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8 Things You Can Do To Perform Really Well Even At The Last Minute

8 Things You Can Do To Perform Really Well Even At The Last Minute

Opportunity doesn’t always give you ample warning … or sometimes, any warning. That doesn’t mean you should let it pass you by. Instead, follow these simple but powerful tips for performing well even when you don’t have time to prepare.

1. Stop and Look Around

Take a few deep breaths to calm your heart rate and your brain. When things come at us suddenly, even positive things, our brains might interpret them as threats. You need to take a moment to breathe, take in your environment, and interpret for your brain what the opportunity is.

For example, if you’ve just found out that your boss expects a report from you during the meeting that starts in five minutes, duck into the bathroom for a moment, lock yourself in the stall, and get centered. Tell your brain that it’s an opportunity, not a threat.

2. Picture the Positive

Fight off panic at being put on the spot by picturing things playing out in the most positive way possible. This helps you to look for positive responses instead of negative ones. We tend to focus on the negative, and when we see it, it can throw us in a tailspin that simply produces more negative reactions. Instead, cue your brain to find the positive in what is happening.

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Before you leave the bathroom and head out into that meeting, picture the meeting room itself. Picture your boss smiling. Picture yourself, confident, smiling, and calm, giving a report. Then go and match that picture in your head.

3. Assess and Triage

When you have little or no preparation time, you simply cannot do it all, no matter how much you would like to. If a client throws an urgent, last-minute project your way, you know immediately that you cannot cover all the details as you normally would. So you assess and triage.

Assess by looking over the project and determining what the needs and potential solutions are.

Then triage by quickly assigning each need, and corresponding solution, a priority level from one to five, with one being the highest priority and five being the lowest. Then start on the first-level priority needs. Once you finish those, hit the second-level priority needs, then the third-level, and so on. Keep going until your time is up, and though you may not have finished everything, you will know you have finished what is most important.

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4. Fall Back on Your Strengths

When Joe found out he was sitting next to two of the high-level executives at dinner during the annual sales conference, he panicked a little. He would have liked to have time to mentally prepare, maybe do a little research on their roles, think through some intelligent questions.

Instead he found himself in conversation with no prep time, so he fell back on what he knew he could do: ask questions and find common ground. The conversation went better than he could have planned because he didn’t focus on what he was missing but on what he had.

Your natural strengths are always there for you, even without the preparation you would like to have. We use advance warning to shore up on our weaknesses; so when you don’t have the warning, depend on your strengths.

5. Ask for Help

Asking for help is a good idea any time, but especially when you’re facing a tighter-than-usual time frame. When you find yourself suddenly planning your sister’s wedding, or the company picnic, or manning the booth at the tech conference, use those networking skills to your advantage.

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Call in help: friends, family members, coworkers. You’ll get the best response by asking them to take on specific roles or duties. People tend to shy away from open-ended requests for help, either because they don’t know quite how to respond or because they’re afraid it will become an all-consuming commitment. So be specific: Will you find a local florist? Will you get the cost on catering for X number of people? Will you man the booth for an hour so I can go get lunch and read through these notes?

6. Don’t Over-Explain

It’s easy, when you feel nervous about a situation, to try to explain what is going on, why you aren’t as prepared as you would like to be, so on. But over-explaining and endlessly apologizing will only make you look worse.

If you must, issue a brief apology or explanation: “I’m sorry I don’t have the hand-outs I normally would,” or “Since I don’t have my portfolio with me, here’s my website address where you can view it anytime.”

7. Proceed with Confidence

Have you ever been in the audience when a visibly nervous performer took the stage? It makes you nervous, doesn’t it? You just start holding your breath, waiting for the performer to mess up.

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Your nervousness creates nervousness and discomfort in others. That makes it difficult for them to be mentally cheering you on, since instead they’re mentally cringing at the display of nerves.

The answer is to act confident even if you feel nervous. Take a deep breath, swallow that lump in your throat, and stride forward with your head up. If your hands are shaking, put them in your pockets, or link them behind your back. Smile, big and wide, and look people straight in the eye. Act like you would if you were completely prepared. The confidence you portray will make people feel at ease with you, which will help make you to feel more comfortable and do a better job.

8. Find Connection Points

So you sent a pitch to the big-shot editor at the big-shot magazine weeks ago and you heard nothing back. In your mind, it’s not happening, until you answer an unknown caller and find yourself talking to the editor. The big-shot editor. Of the big-shot magazine. About your pitch, which she likes.

Don’t freak out. Breathe deep, listen, and remember that as intimidating as her position, background, or role might be, she’s a human. Like you. Find the things you have in common. Find connection points. Ask and answer questions. Remember that you’re conversing with another human who has intimidations and goals and awkward moments just like you do. Focus on the common ground instead of the perceived divide, and you’ll find more connection points that you might have imagined.

Featured photo credit: Mister Wilson via flickr.com

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Last Updated on September 20, 2018

8 Ways to Train Your Brain to Learn Faster and Remember More

8 Ways to Train Your Brain to Learn Faster and Remember More

You go to the gym to train your muscles. You run outside or go for hikes to train your endurance. Or, maybe you do neither of those, but still wish you exercised more.

Well, here is how to train one of the most important parts of your body: your brain.

When you train your brain, you will:

  • Avoid embarrassing situations. You remember his face, but what was his name?
  • Be a faster learner in all sorts of different skills. No problem for you to pick up a new language or new management skill.
  • Avoid diseases that hit as you get older. Alzheimer’s will not be affecting you.

So how to train your brain and improve your cognitive skills?

1. Work your memory

Twyla Tharp, a NYC-based renowned choreographer has come up with the following memory workout:

When she watches one of her performances, she tries to remember the first twelve to fourteen corrections she wants to discuss with her cast without writing them down.

If you think this is anything less than a feat, then think again. In her book The Creative Habit she says that most people cannot remember more than three.

The practice of both remembering events or things and then discussing them with others has actually been supported by brain fitness studies.

Memory activities that engage all levels of brain operation—receiving, remembering and thinking—help to improve the function of the brain.

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Now, you may not have dancers to correct, but you may be required to give feedback on a presentation, or your friends may ask you what interesting things you saw at the museum. These are great opportunities to practically train your brain by flexing your memory muscles.

What is the simplest way to help yourself remember what you see? Repetition.

For example, say you just met someone new:

“Hi, my name is George”

Don’t just respond with, “Nice to meet you”. Instead, say, “Nice to meet you George.”

Got it? Good.

2. Do something different repeatedly

By actually doing something new over and over again, your brain wires new pathways that help you do this new thing better and faster.

Think back to when you were three years old. You surely were strong enough to hold a knife and a fork just fine. Yet, when you were eating all by yourself, you were creating a mess.

It was not a matter of strength, you see. It was a matter of cultivating more and better neural pathways that would help you eat by yourself just like an adult does.

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And guess what? With enough repetition you made that happen!

But how does this apply to your life right now?

Say you are a procrastinator. The more you don’t procrastinate, the more you teach your brain not to wait for the last minute to make things happen.

Now, you might be thinking “Duh, if only not procrastinating could be that easy!”

Well, it can be. By doing something really small, that you wouldn’t normally do, but is in the direction of getting that task done, you will start creating those new precious neural pathways.

So if you have been postponing organizing your desk, just take one paper and put in its right place. Or, you can go even smaller. Look at one piece of paper and decide where to put it: Trash? Right cabinet? Another room? Give it to someone?

You don’t actually need to clean up that paper; you only need to decide what you need to do with it.

That’s how small you can start. And yet, those neural pathways are still being built. Gradually, you will transform yourself from a procrastinator to an in-the-moment action taker.

3. Learn something new

It might sound obvious, but the more you use your brain, the better its going to perform for you.

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For example, learning a new instrument improves your skill of translating something you see (sheet music) to something you actually do (playing the instrument).

Learning a new language exposes your brain to a different way of thinking, a different way of expressing yourself.

You can even literally take it a step further, and learn how to dance. Studies indicate that learning to dance helps seniors avoid Alzheimer’s. Not bad, huh?

4. Follow a brain training program

The Internet world can help you improve your brain function while lazily sitting on your couch. A clinically proven program like BrainHQ can help you improve your memory, or think faster, by just following their brain training exercises.

5. Work your body

You knew this one was coming didn’t you? Yes indeed, exercise does not just work your body; it also improves the fitness of your brain.

Even briefly exercising for 20 minutes facilitates information processing and memory functions. But it’s not just that–exercise actually helps your brain create those new neural connections faster. You will learn faster, your alertness level will increase, and you get all that by moving your body.

Now, if you are not already a regular exerciser, and already feel guilty that you are not helping your brain by exercising more, try a brain training exercise program like Exercise Bliss.

Remember, just like we discussed in #2, by training your brain to do something new repeatedly, you are actually changing yourself permanently.

6. Spend time with your loved ones

If you want optimal cognitive abilities, then you’ve got to have meaningful relationships in your life.  Talking with others and engaging with your loved ones helps you think more clearly, and it can also lift your mood.

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If you are an extrovert, this holds even more weight for you. At a class at Stanford University, I learned that extroverts actually use talking to other people as a way to understand and process their own thoughts.

I remember that the teacher told us that after a personality test said she was an extrovert, she was surprised. She had always thought of herself as an introvert. But then, she realized how much talking to others helped her frame her own thoughts, so she accepted her new-found status as an extrovert.

7. Avoid crossword puzzles

Many of us, when we think of brain fitness, think of crossword puzzles. And it’s true–crossword puzzles do improve our fluency, yet studies show they are not enough by themselves.

Are they fun? Yes. Do they sharpen your brain? Not really.

Of course, if you are doing this for fun, then by all means go ahead. If you are doing it for brain fitness, then you might want to choose another activity

8. Eat right – and make sure dark chocolate is included

Foods like fish, fruits, and vegetables help your brain perform optimally. Yet, you might not know that dark chocolate gives your brain a good boost as well.

When you eat chocolate, your brain produces dopamine. And dopamine helps you learn faster and remember better. Not to mention, chocolate contains flavonols, antioxidants, which also improve your brain functions.

So next time you have something difficult to do, make sure you grab a bite or two of dark chocolate!

The bottom line

Now that you know how to train your brain, it’s actually time to start doing.

Don’t just consume this content and then go on with your life as if nothing has changed. Put this knowledge into action and become smarter than ever!

Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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