Do you have future projects that you put on your calendar and plan on completing by the due date? The day comes closer and closer and you start the project with every intention of completing it on time. Soon the day arrives and you have an outline and a whole lot to do. You scramble to get it done and then the unexpected happens. You have two hours left and someone calls a meeting…. arrrgh. An hour later you rush out of the meeting but the damage is done. Your project is unfinished, your stress level is sky high, and you vow never to wait to the last minute again.
Have you been in that situation before? I know I sure have. I’m not sure what causes me to do this over and over. Sometimes I think I must love the thrill of the last minute scramble. My mind must be addicted to the adrenaline rush. Unfortunately this last minute rush always leaves something out. I always walk away, shaking my head and realizing…
- Projects always take twice as long as I expect
- The materials I need will not be available
- I’ll forget to take something I need
- Interruptions will come
- There will be traffic
I used to think it was a guy named Murphy, I have come to realize it is a guy named “Me”.
A few weeks ago I found myself driving to a very important presentation and everything that day had taken much longer than I had expected. The powerpoint took 4 hours instead of 2. The wireless microphone I had planned to buy locally was not available. I had run out of the house without my phone and had to go back. I had an important voice mail that I had to return. I was running late, but there was light at the end of the tunnel. I could still get there on time if the freeway was clear.
Then it happened… I was a half mile from the freeway when the traffic stopped. Someone decided to do road construction on the freeway on-ramp at 5 o’clock in the afternoon. Arrgh!
I hit the dashboard with my fist. I was soooo mad! But there was nothing that I could do…
Twenty minutes later I was on my way again, but the damage was done.
I was late for the presentation, my preparation was not as good as it should have been, and I had to use a loaner microphone. I was stressed out and it showed.
When my program was over, one of the other presenters came up and told me a secret that they use to make sure they are prepared…
They schedule their meetings/events a week early.
They take any long term commitment and move it back seven days on their calendar. And they prepare for it just as if it was going to happen on that day. They say that with some practice this whole thing becomes second nature.
I’ve taken this point to heart and added a couple of ideas to refine it even more. Here is my action plan.
- Schedule the event on my calender a week early.
- Schedule an actual run-through on that day with someone.
- When preparing, do the hardest tasks first (Eat that Frog)
- Buy and source any materials in advance so they are available.
- On the actual day get to the event at least 30 minutes early
- Make a check list and go over it before leaving home.
- Prepare a presentation toolbox with needed cables, plugs etc.
Now that I’m giving longer and more detailed presentations to different groups this strategy has become very important. This is where Toastmasters has been a big help. Since our local club meets once a week, I can schedule a trial speech a week before the actual event. If there isn’t room on the docket I’ll schedule as a backup speaker. This forces me to be prepared, and I have a week to make changes.
If I’m short of any materials or need to source reference books, I have plenty of time. I have a week to order them, so I can save money by ordering online from Amazon or other retailer. I can refine the Powerpoint slides and fine tune any handouts or other written documents. But best of all my stress level is now much lower.