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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 March 21, 2019

11 Important Things to Remember When Changing Habits

11 Important Things to Remember When Changing Habits

Most gurus talk about habits in a way that doesn’t help you:

You need to push yourself more. You can’t be lazy. You need to wake up at 5 am. You need more motivation. You can never fail…blah blah “insert more gibberish here.”

But let me share with you the unconventional truths I found out:

To build and change habits, you don’t need motivation or wake up at 5 am. Heck, you can fail multiple times, be lazy, have no motivation and still pull it off with ease.

It’s quite simple and easy to do, especially with the following list I’m going to show to you. But remember, Jim Rohn used to say,

“What is simple and easy to do is also simple and easy not to do.”

The important things to remember when changing your habits are both simple and easy, just don’t think that they don’t make any difference because they do.

In fact, they are the only things that make a difference.

Let’s see what those small things are, shall we?

1. Start Small

The biggest mistake I see people doing with habits is by going big. You don’t go big…ever. You start small with your habits.

Want to grow a book reading habit? Don’t start reading a book a day. Start with 10 pages a day.

Want to become a writer? Don’t start writing 10,000 words a day. Start with 300 words.

Want to lose weight? Don’t stop eating ice cream. Eat one less ball of it.

Whatever it is, you need to start small. Starting big always leads to failure. It has to, because it’s not sustainable.

Start small. How small? The amount needs to be in your comfort zone. So if you think that reading 20 pages of a book is a bit too much, start with 10 or 5.

It needs to appear easy and be easy to do.

Do less today to do more in a year.

2. Stay Small

There is a notion of Kaizen which means continuous improvement. They use this notion in habits where they tell you to start with reading 1 page of a book a day and then gradually increase the amount you do over time.

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But the problem with this approach is the end line — where the “improvement” stops.

If I go from reading 1 page of a book a day and gradually reach 75 and 100, when do I stop? When I reach 1 book a day? That is just absurd.

When you start a habit, stay at it in the intensity you have decided. Don’t push yourself for more.

I started reading 20 pages of a book a day. It’s been more than 2 years now and I’ve read 101 books in that period. There is no way I will increase the number in the future.

Why?

Because reading 40 to 50 books a year is enough.

The same thing applies to every other habit out there.

Pick a (small) number and stay at it.

3. Bad Days Are 100 Percent Occurrence

No matter how great you are, you will have bad days where you won’t do your habit. Period.

There is no way of going around this. So it’s better to prepare yourself for when that happens instead of thinking that it won’t ever happen.

What I do when I miss a day of my habit(s) is that I try to bounce back the next day while trying to do habits for both of those days.

Example for that is if I read 20 pages of a book a day and I miss a day, the next day I will have to read 40 pages of a book. If I miss writing 500 words, the next day I need to write 1000.

This is a really important point we will discuss later on rewards and punishments.

This is how I prepare for the bad days when I skip my habit(s) and it’s a model you should take as well.

4. Those Who Track It, Hack It

When you track an activity, you can objectively tell what you did in the past days, weeks, months, and years. If you don’t track, you will for sure forget everything you did.

There are many different ways you can track your activities today, from Habitica to a simple Excel sheet that I use, to even a Whatsapp Tracker.

Peter Drucker said,

“What you track is what you do.”

So track it to do it — it really helps.

But tracking is accompanied by one more easy activity — measuring.

5. Measure Once, Do Twice

Peter Drucker also said,

“What you measure is what you improve.”

So alongside my tracker, I have numbers with which I measure doses of daily activities:

For reading, it’s 20 pages.
For writing, it’s 500 words.
For the gym, it’s 1 (I went) or 0 (didn’t go).
For budgeting, it’s writing down the incomes and expenses.

Tracking and measuring go hand in hand, they take less than 20 seconds a day but they create so much momentum that it’s unbelievable.

6. All Days Make a Difference

Will one day in the gym make you fit? It won’t.

Will two? They won’t.

Will three? They won’t.

Which means that a single gym session won’t make you fit. But after 100 gym sessions, you will look and feel fit.

What happened? Which one made you fit?

The answer to this (Sorites paradox)[1] is that no single gym session made you fit, they all did.

No single day makes a difference, but when combined, they all do. So trust the process and keep on going (small).

7. They Are Never Fully Automated

Gurus tell you that habits become automatic. And yes, some of them do, like showering a certain way of brushing your teeth.

But some habits don’t become automatic, they become a lifestyle.

What I mean by that is that you won’t automatically “wake up” in the gym and wonder how you got there.

It will just become a part of your lifestyle.

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The difference is that you do the first one automatically, without conscious thought, while the other is a part of how you live your life.

It’s not automatic, but it’s a decision you don’t ponder on or think about — you simply do it.

It will become easy at a certain point, but they will never become fully automated.

8. What Got You Here Won’t Get You There

Marshall Goldsmith has a great book with the same title to it. The phrase means that sometimes, you will need to ditch certain habits to make room for other ones which will bring you to the next step.

Don’t be afraid to evolve your habits when you sense that they don’t bring you where you want to go.

When I started reading, it was about reading business and tactic books. But two years into it, I switched to philosophy books which don’t teach me anything “applicable,” but instead teach me how to think.

The most important ability of the 21st century is the ability to learn, unlearn, and relearn. The strongest tree is the willow tree – not because it has the strongest root or biggest trunk, but because it is flexible enough to endure and sustain anything.

Be like a willow, adapting to the new ways of doing things.

9. Set a Goal and Then Forget It

The most successful of us know what they want to achieve, but they don’t focus on it.

Sounds paradoxical? You’re right, it does. But here is the logic behind it.

You need to have a goal of doing something – “I want to become a healthy individual” – and then, you need to reverse engineer how to get there with your habits- “I will go to the gym four times a week.”

But once you have your goal, you need to “forget” about it and only focus on the process. Because you are working on the process of becoming healthy and it’s always in the making. You will only be as healthy as you take care of your body.

So you have a goal which isn’t static but keeps on moving.

If you went to the gym 150 times year and you hit your goal, what would you do then? You would stop going to the gym.

This is why goal-oriented people experience yo-yo effect[2] and why process-oriented people don’t.

The difference between process-oriented and goal-oriented people is that the first focus on daily actions while others only focus on the reward at the finish line.

Set a goal but then forget about it and reap massive awards.

10. Punish Yourself

Last two sections are pure Pavlovian – you need to punish bad behavior and reward good behavior. You are the only person who decides what is good and what is bad for you, but when you do, you need to rigorously follow that.

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I’ve told you in point #3 about bad days and how after one occurs, I do double the work on the next day. That is one of my forms of punishments.

It’s the need to tell your brain that certain behaviors are unacceptable and that they lead to bad outcomes. That’s what punishments are for.

You want to tell your brain that there are real consequences to missing your daily habits.[3]

No favorite food to eat or favorite show to watch or going to the cinema for a new Marvel movie- none, zero, zilch.

The brain will remember these bad feelings and will try to avoid the behaviors that led to them as much as possible.

But don’t forget the other side of the same coin.

11. Reward Yourself

When you follow and execute on your plan, reward yourself. It’s how the brain knows that you did something good.

Whenever I finish one of my habits for the day, I open my tracker (who am I kidding, I always keep it open on my desktop) and fill it with a number. As soon as I finish reading 20 pages of a book a day (or a bit more), I open the tracker and write the number down.

The cell becomes green and gives me an instant boost of endorphin – a great success for the day. Then, it becomes all about not breaking the chain and having as many green fields as possible.

After 100 days, I crunch some numbers and see how I did.

If I have less than 10 cheat days, I reward myself with a great meal in a restaurant. You can create your own rewards and they can be daily, weekly, monthly or any arbitrary time table that you create.

Primoz Bozic, a productivity coach, has gold, silver, and bronze medals as his reward system.[4]

If you’re having problems creating a system which works for you, contact me via email and we can discuss specifics.

In the End, It Matters

What you do matters not only to you but to the people around you.

When you increase the quality of your life, you indirectly increase the quality of life of people around you. And sometimes, that is all the “motivation” we need to start.

And that’s the best quote for the end of this article:

“Motivation gets you started, but habits keep you going.”

Keep going.

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More Resources to Help You Build Habits

Featured photo credit: Anete Lūsiņa via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy: Sorites paradox
[2] Muscle Zone: What causes yo-yo effect and how to avoid it?
[3] Growth Habits: 5 Missteps That Cause You To Quit Building A Habit
[4] Primoz Bozic: The Lean Review: How to Plan Your 2019 in 20 Minutes

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