Did you see the movie Jurassic Park? If you did, you probably remember the frightening scene in which a T-Rex is shown in the side-view mirror as it advances on the jeep being used by three frightened characters to escape. In the mirror you can see the chilling words, “Objects in mirror are closer than they appear”, with the T-Rex looking pretty darn CLOSE! Every time I see that scene, I tense up – even though I know the outcome!
Deadlines can have the same stressful effect on us when they creep up too quickly, can’t they? We often think we have plenty of time, only to get a huge headache as we rush to get everything done to meet that deadline a day or two before it’s due.
Here are a couple of tips to help you plan better, and avoid the stress on yourself and everyone around you (because who among us gets EASIER to deal with when we’re under stress?):
- Look at the overall project and find natural “breakpoints”. Where can you break the project into smaller pieces, and place “artificial” (but helpful) deadlines on just those pieces?
- Using those natural breakpoints, create a schedule for completing several smaller “sub-projects” along the way, rather than leaving everything until the last minute.
- Look at ALL of your ongoing projects for the next couple of months. Where are the natural “downtimes” for each? Schedule sub-project deadlines in these downtimes as much as possible to take advantage of slowdowns in your schedule.
- Gather all needed materials at the start of the project. You never know when a needed item will be delayed, causing your schedule to blow up, simply because you don’t have everything on hand well in advance, waiting for you to use it when you are ready for it.
- Leverage the timing of every action. This means remembering that every piece of the project may not need your personal involvement. So, if you can send off an e-mail or two that will get other team members going on them, do it at the beginning (or as soon as it’s feasible for them to begin). This helps you get time on your side by setting in motion other actions during your busy time; it also ease the pressure on your team members by giving them more time to handle their portion of the project.
If you want to create a WOWplace at your organization, everyone’s stress levels must be kept under control. While we’re not responsible for everyone else’s stress, we can avoid adding the unnecessary stress of “dumping” things on them at the eleventh hour.
So, give yourself and all your team members a better chance of success by letting that mirror be a warning to watch out for deadlines well in advance, rather than continually looking in the mirror and refusing to recognize that your projects are gaining on you!