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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 July 13, 2020

How Not to Feel Overwhelmed at Work & Take Control of Your Day

How Not to Feel Overwhelmed at Work & Take Control of Your Day

Overwhelm is a pernicious state largely caused by the ever-increasing demands on our time and the distractions that exist all around us. It creeps up on us and can, in its extreme form, leave us feeling anxious, stressed and exhausted.

If you’re feeling overwhelmed at work, here are 6 strategies you can follow that will reduce the feeling of overwhelm; leaving you calmer, in control and a lot less stressed.

1. Write Everything down to Offload Your Mind

The first thing you can do when you begin to feel overwhelmed is to write everything down that is on your mind.

Often people just write down all the things they think they have to do. This does help, but a more effective way to reduce overwhelm is to also write down everything that’s on your mind.

For example, you may have had an argument with your colleague or a loved one. If it’s on your mind write it down. A good way to do this is to draw a line down the middle of the page and title one section “things to do” and the other “what’s on my mind”.

The act of writing all this down and getting it out of your head will begin the process of removing your feeling of overwhelm. Writing things down can really change your life.

2. Decide How Long It Will Take to Complete Your To-Dos

Once you have ‘emptied your head,’ go through your list and estimate how long it will take to complete each to-do.

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As you go through your list, you will find quite a few to-dos will only take you five or ten minutes. Others will take longer, often up to several hours.

Do not worry about that at this stage. Just focus on estimating how long you will need to complete each task to the best of your ability. Here’s How to Cultivate a More Meaningful To Do List.

3. Take Advantage of Parkinson’s Law

Now here’s a little trick I learned a long time ago. Parkinson’s Law states that work will fill the time you have available to complete it, and us humans are terrible at estimating how long something will take:((Odhable: Genesis of Parkinson’s Law))

    This is why many people are always late. They think it will only take them thirty minutes to drive across town when previous experience has taught them it usually takes forty-five minutes to do so because traffic is often bad but they stick to the belief it will only take thirty minutes. It’s more wishful thinking than good judgment.

    We can use Parkinson’s Law to our advantage. If you have estimated that to write five emails that desperately need a reply to be ninety minutes, then reduce it down to one hour. Likewise, if you have estimated it will take you three hours to prepare your upcoming presentation, reduce it down to two hours.

    Reducing the time you estimate something will take gives you two advantages. The first is you get your work done quicker, obviously. The second is you put yourself under a little time pressure and in doing so you reduce the likelihood you will be distracted or allow yourself to procrastinate.

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    When we overestimate how long something will take, subconsciously our brains know we have plenty of time and so it plays tricks on us and we end up checking reviews of the Apple Watch 4 or allow our colleagues to interrupt us with the latest office gossip.

    Applying a little time pressure prevents this from happening and we get more focused and more work done.

    4. Use the Power of Your Calendar

    Once you have your time estimates done, open up your calendar and schedule your to-dos. Go through your to-dos and schedule time on your calendar for doing those tasks. Group tasks up into similar tasks.

    For emails that need attention on your to-do list, schedule time on your calendar to deal with all your emails at once. Likewise, if you have a report to write or a presentation to prepare, add these to your calendar using your estimated time as a guide for how long each will take.

    Seeing these items on your calendar eases your mind because you know you have allocated time to get them done and you no longer feel you have no time. Grouping similar tasks together keeps you in a focused state longer and it’s amazing how much work you get done when you do this.

    5. Make Decisions

    For those things you wrote down that are on your mind but are not tasks, make a decision about what you will do with each one. These things are on your mind because you have not made a decision about them.

    If you have an issue with a colleague, a friend or a loved one, take a little time to think about what would be the best way to resolve the problem. More often than not just talking with the person involved will clear the air and resolve the problem.

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    If it is a more serious issue, then decide how best to deal with it. Talk to your boss, a colleague and get advice.

    Whatever you do, do not allow it to fester. Ignoring the problem will not make it go away. You need to make a decision to deal with it and the sooner you do so the sooner the problem will be resolved. (You can take a look at this guide on How To Make Good Decisions All The Time.)

    I remember long ago, when I was in my early twenties and had gone mad with my newly acquired credit cards. I discovered I didn’t have the money to pay my monthly bills. I worried about it for days, got stressed and really didn’t know what to do. Eventually, I told a good friend of mine of the problem. He suggested I called the credit card company to explain my problem. The next day, I plucked up the courage to call the company, explained my problem and the wonderful person the other end listened and then suggested I paid a smaller amount for a couple of months.

    This one phone call took no more than ten minutes to make, yet it solved my problem and took away a lot of the stress I was feeling at the time. I learned two very valuable lessons from that experience:

    The first, don’t go mad with newly acquired credit cards! And the second, there’s always a solution to every problem if you just talk to the right person.

    6. Take Some Form of Action

    Because overwhelm is something that creeps up on us, once we feel overwhelmed (and stressed as the two often go together), the key is to take some form of action.

    The act of writing everything down that is bothering you and causing you to feel overwhelmed is a great place to start. Being able to see what it is that is bothering you in a list form, no matter how long that list is, eases the mind. You have externalized it.

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    It also means rather than these worries floating around in a jumbled mess inside your head, they are now visible and you can make decisions easier about what to do about them. Often it could be asking a colleague for a little help, or it could be you see you need to allocate some focused time to get the work done. The important thing is you make a decision on what to do next.

    Overwhelm is not always caused by a feeling of having a lack of time or too much work, it can also be caused by avoiding a decision about what to do next.

    The Bottom Line

    Make a decision, even if it is to just talk to someone about what to do next. Making a decision about how you will resolve something on its own will reduce your feelings of overwhelm and start you down the path to a resolution one way or another.

    When you follow these strategies to can say goodbye to your overwhelm and gain much more control over your day.

    More Tips for Reducing Work Stress

    Featured photo credit: Andrei Lazarev via unsplash.com

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