Career Management

“Don’t leave it to the last minute”. I appreciate this is one of those easier-said-than-done things, but nothing rewarding or precious is ever really easy to attain, so moot point.

Everyone studying or in the workforce has some kind of ‘to do’ list each day. Some people won’t look to theirs as a burden; others will despise the very pen with which it is written. Either way, there are always going to be things that need to get done by certain times. End of. Particularly in industries dictated by strict deadlines, it’s easy to let the day drive you. It’s easy to become a passive passenger in your career car, merely facilitating the ride by completing tasks when they’re due.

I had a lightbulb moment recently where I realised that by completing things on time, I was actually taking the power out of my hands. I can imagine that seems confusing, but stay with me. See I realised the real power lies within completing things before they’re due, and giving myself breathing room.

“Early is the new on time” (Me, 2016)

Living close to the edge can be great sometimes. When it comes to travelling and being social, it’s good to keep things alive by being spontaneous, risky and daring. But day-to-day, there’s just no room for dangerous living. It only leads to stress and a lower quality of work. I’ve come to realise that for anyone susceptible to stressing under pressure, doing things in advance is the best remedy out there, and an absolute game-changer.

Here’s how you and your work will suffer from leaving things to the 11th hour:

1. Mistakes galore

When I feel like I have no time to spare and my feet aren’t touching the ground, I can become a scatterbrain. So much so, my mum even used to call me Missy Scrattle; a very affectionate, endearing take on the not-so-positive tendency to become scattered when I have to speed through tasks at an unnatural pace. By working close to deadlines, there is no room for error and no flexibility to spend more time on things that really need more attention than you’d accounted for. Things can be missed; things slip through the cracks; errors aren’t filtered out. Fixing mistakes costs you extra time, so there is a lot to be said for doing things right the first time.

2. Lowering the bar

If you are working down to the wire, the main objective quickly becomes just getting the job done, as opposed to doing the job well. If double-checking, proofreading or peer editing is the difference between you meeting deadline or not, chances are you’ll rock and roll with out those quality control tools. Work becomes sloppy when it’s churned out quickly with no real soul. Lowering the bar at work will have knock on effects too, and you’ll probably start to feel bad about yourself and your abilities, because you’re becoming a tad sub par. Lift your game, and give yourself the chance to make sure everything you do is at the standard that makes you proud.

3. Stressful disposition

Recent studies have confirmed links between being stressed and making more mistakes, using doctors as the prime example. We know that reducing stress is conducive with maximising productivity and effectiveness at work; that’s why we’re always being told to de-stress, for our own sake and our employer’s. People do react to high-pressure situations differently – some thrive under stress. Horses for courses, I’ve found I work best when I feel cool, calm and collected. Creating as much as a buffer as possible allows me relax.  It’s comforting knowing that if something goes wrong, I’m not up Sh*t Creek without a paddle. And if something actually does go wrong, well, I have time to deal with it and fix things. No stress here. Win win.

4. Lack of control

There is a lot of talk about how humans have an innate need to have a sense of control. I couldn’t agree more – when I feel in control, I feel ready and empowered to crack on. Being able to manage my own time and my own agenda allows me to complete things when it feels right to do so, and act on certain things when the need arises. If someone else is dictating when I have to do stuff, I quickly feel like I have let go of the reins. If I feel like my voice is not being heard, or I have little say over things, I feel disheartened and unenthused. This is why setting my own agenda, which includes getting things done ahead of schedule (where possible) allows me to work to my own diary, to some extent, and control my own fate at work.

5. Time-poor, all the time

When we do stuff in advance, we feel like we have time to play with, because we do. Then we use that extra time we’ve created for ourself to get ahead on the next task we have to do, and so on and so forth. In actual fact, you are still spending the same amount of time doing tasks you have to do one way or another, but the difference is, you are always one step ahead of yourself. Leaving stuff to the last minute means if a free ticket to the Beyonce concert comes available because you’re friend is unwell (bless her), you can drop everything and go, because you’re already prepared for the next day, and you can fit it in. Working on things at the very time they need to be completed means there is absolutely no flexibility to just GO WITH THE FLOW and live your life.

6. Rush through your life

I stumbled upon a clip (below) the other day that really got me thinking! So much of our time is spent ‘doing’, as opposed to ‘being’. I’ve done this, done that, done this, done that, still have to do this, have to do that. It’s quite a sad thought really, isn’t it? I’ve found that the more I can stay ahead of the curve and get things done in advance, the more I can focus on where I am and what I am doing at any given moment. Instead of worrying about completing something that absolutely has to be done in 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 hours’ time, I can relax instead, knowing I’m on top of things.

Images: Shutterstock


About Phoebe Spinks

Phoebe is the editor of Undercover Recruiter & Senior Account Executive at Link Humans.

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