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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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The Productivity Paradox: What Is It And How Can We Move Beyond It?

The Productivity Paradox: What Is It And How Can We Move Beyond It?

It’s a depressing adage we’ve all heard time and time again: An increase in technology does not necessarily translate to an increase in productivity.

Put another way by Robert Solow, a Nobel laureate in economics,

“You can see the computer age everywhere but in the productivity statistics.”

In other words, just because our computers are getting faster, that doesn’t mean that that we will have an equivalent leap in productivity. In fact, the opposite may be true!

New York Times writer Matt Richel wrote in an article for the paper back in 2008 that stated, “Statistical and anecdotal evidence mounts that the same technology tools that have led to improvements in productivity can be counterproductive if overused.”

There’s a strange paradox when it comes to productivity. Rather than an exponential curve, our productivity will eventually reach a plateau, even with advances in technology.

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So what does that mean for our personal levels of productivity? And what does this mean for our economy as a whole? Here’s what you should know about the productivity paradox, its causes, and what possible solutions we may have to combat it.

What is the productivity paradox?

There is a discrepancy between the investment in IT growth and the national level of productivity and productive output. The term “productivity paradox” became popularized after being used in the title of a 1993 paper by MIT’s Erik Brynjolfsson, a Professor of Management at the MIT Sloan School of Management, and the Director of the MIT Center for Digital Business.

In his paper, Brynjolfsson argued that while there doesn’t seem to be a direct, measurable correlation between improvements in IT and improvements in output, this might be more of a reflection on how productive output is measured and tracked.[1]

He wrote in his conclusion:

“Intangibles such as better responsiveness to customers and increased coordination with suppliers do not always increase the amount or even intrinsic quality of output, but they do help make sure it arrives at the right time, at the right place, with the right attributes for each customer.

Just as managers look beyond “productivity” for some of the benefits of IT, so must researchers be prepared to look beyond conventional productivity measurement techniques.”

How do we measure productivity anyway?

And this brings up a good point. How exactly is productivity measured?

In the case of the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, productivity gain is measured as the percentage change in gross domestic product per hour of labor.

But other publications such as US Today, argue that this is not the best way to track productivity, and instead use something called Total Factor Productivity (TFP). According to US Today, TFP “examines revenue per employee after subtracting productivity improvements that result from increases in capital assets, under the assumption that an investment in modern plants, equipment and technology automatically improves productivity.”[2]

In other words, this method weighs productivity changes by how much improvement there is since the last time productivity stats were gathered.

But if we can’t even agree on the best way to track productivity, then how can we know for certain if we’ve entered the productivity paradox?

Possible causes of the productivity paradox

Brynjolfsson argued that there are four probable causes for the paradox:

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  • Mis-measurement – The gains are real but our current measures miss them.
  • Redistribution – There are private gains, but they come at the expense of other firms and individuals, leaving little net gain.
  • Time lags – The gains take a long time to show up.
  • Mismanagement – There are no gains because of the unusual difficulties in managing IT or information itself.

There seems to be some evidence to support the mis-measurement theory as shown above. Another promising candidate is the time lag, which is supported by the work of Paul David, an economist at Oxford University.

According to an article in The Economist, his research has shown that productivity growth did not accelerate until 40 years after the introduction of electric power in the early 1880s.[3] This was partly because it took until 1920 for at least half of American industrial machinery to be powered by electricity.”

Therefore, he argues, we won’t see major leaps in productivity until both the US and major global powers have all reached at least a 50% penetration rate for computer use. The US only hit that mark a decade ago, and many other countries are far behind that level of growth.

The paradox and the recession

The productivity paradox has another effect on the recession economy. According to Neil Irwin,[4]

“Sky-high productivity has meant that business output has barely declined, making it less necessary to hire back laid-off workers…businesses are producing only 3 percent fewer goods and services than they were at the end of 2007, yet Americans are working nearly 10 percent fewer hours because of a mix of layoffs and cutbacks in the workweek.”

This means that more and more companies are trying to do less with more, and that means squeezing two or three people’s worth of work from a single employee in some cases.

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According to Irwin, “workers, frightened for their job security, squeezed more productivity out of every hour [in 2010].”

Looking forward

A recent article on Slate puts it all into perspective with one succinct observation:

“Perhaps the Internet is just not as revolutionary as we think it is. Sure, people might derive endless pleasure from it—its tendency to improve people’s quality of life is undeniable. And sure, it might have revolutionized how we find, buy, and sell goods and services. But that still does not necessarily mean it is as transformative of an economy as, say, railroads were.”

Still, Brynjolfsson argues that mismeasurement of productivity can really skew the results of people studying the paradox, perhaps more than any other factor.

“Because you and I stopped buying CDs, the music industry has shrunk, according to revenues and GDP. But we’re not listening to less music. There’s more music consumed than before.

On paper, the way GDP is calculated, the music industry is disappearing, but in reality it’s not disappearing. It is disappearing in revenue. It is not disappearing in terms of what you should care about, which is music.”

Perhaps the paradox isn’t a death sentence for our productivity after all. Only time (and perhaps improved measuring techniques) will tell.

Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

Reference

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