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Last Minute Larceny

Leaving things to the last minute is a recipe for disaster and on the way causes stress, anxiety and a series of corners that have been cut. Quality suffers and often there is collateral damage to those around you. So why do people heap this kind of trauma on themselves? Why do they leave things to the last minute? Why do you? I guess if it wasn’t for the last minute we’d never get anything done…..

There are some who actually like to work under self-inflicted pressure and who leave things to the last minute because it brings out the best in them but these are the exception and many who simply say that they leave things to the last minute because “it brings out the best in me” are simply spinning an excuse for their disorganized and unplanned behavior.

There are really very few reasons why things are left until the last minute and they can all be summed up under the heading of being disorganized and lacking focus. You might try and make the excuse about being busy but everybody is busy and so we say “so what?” Try ‘productive’ and see if what you’ve been doing actually passes that test. As we have said many times before, being busy means nothing. Doing stuff is not the same as getting stuff done.

So if we are to remove the ‘last minute’ curse from our activities what do we need to do?

Firstly you need a good understanding of your current capacity versus the current and anticipated demands. Do you have enough time to get everything done? Do you have enough capacity to get things done by the required deadlines? You will need to rank the outstanding ‘to do’ items based on an appropriate ranking system. You might base this on value, implications for your customer, compliance (your license to trade), deadline or your boss’s agenda…..

Second, and based on your capacity and ranking, prioritize the tasks. Importantly, stick to that prioritization and make sure others know what your priorities are.

Third, break each one of your priorities into bite sized chunks. Estimate the time to deliver each of those elements and schedule time in your calendar. People tend to just use their calendars to capture meetings but use the task function and certainly block off time to complete the bite sized chunks that you’ve identified.

Fourth, you need to manage your stakeholder’s expectations. If upon breaking down the task you see that it is not going to be possible to deliver on the target date you will need to renegotiate. If renegotiation proves fruitless then some other task or tasks need to be dropped so that you can accomplish this one. In other words, you’ll need to negotiate on something else with someone else.

Finally don’t let other people’s last minute disasters become your priorities. Don’t become someone else’s collateral damage. If they haven’t negotiated previously with you to support their requirements you need to stop yourself from enabling their poor behavior. This might sound harsh but sometimes taking a firm stance is the only way in which to prevent them from continually playing the ‘last minute card’……

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