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Last Minute Larceny

Mark Crocker - January 31, 2022 - 0 comments

Leaving things to the last minute is a recipe for disaster and it causes stress, anxiety and often a series of corners have been cut. Quality suffers and often there is collateral damage to those around us. So why do people heap this kind of trauma on themselves? Why do they leave things to the last minute? Why do you?

There are exceptions and some people do actually like to work under pressure and 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 the term ‘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 we need a good understanding of our current capacity versus the current and anticipated demands. Do we have enough time to get everything done? Do we have enough capacity to get things done by the required deadlines? We will need to rank the outstanding ‘to do’ items based on an appropriate ranking system. We might base this on value, implications for our customer, compliance (our license to trade), a deadline or our boss’s agenda…..

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

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

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

Finally we must not let other people’s last minute disasters become our priorities. we must not let ourselves become someone else’s collateral damage. If they haven’t negotiated previously with us to support their requirements we need to stop ourselves 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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