The Three Festive “P’s” - Plan, Plan and Plan

As Christmas approaches, it seems impossible to look anywhere without people offering ways to help you organize yourself, from Mary Berry’s “Xmas to do list,” through to “Twenty Five Essential Christmas Panning Tips,” and “Seven Ways to Joyfully Thriving At Christmas.” Now, I like a list as much as the next woman. I’m a planner, I like to be organised. But not everybody does.  For example: “Shall we put your birthday off till after Christmas or are we keeping it as a hard deadline? It’s a bit much to have them both so close together,” my husband says. What does that mean?  My birthday is on the same date every year. You can’t move it. Aren’t all deadlines “hard deadlines” with dates attached? You can’t put them off.  Surprisingly, however, many people can and do ignore deadlines indefinitely. This can cause huge problems both at home and in the business world. I spent some time reflecting on how I would manage my husband’s procrastination if he was an employee (rather than someone just getting in the way of my Christmas planning at home.)

This led me to Leo Sun, writing in “Business Dictionary.” He says:

“An employee who fails to be punctual and achieve deadlines is no more than a broken cog in a machine, and will be quickly replaced.” Harsh, I thought. In reality, surely life isn’t that simple. We should help those poor, unorganised souls to improve. But how can professional procrastinators learn effective time management in order to successfully meet deadlines?

In the spirit of Christmas, I provide below Leo Sun’s helpful checklist on how to avoid you becoming your employers (or your wife’s) “broken cog”:

Breaking One Task Down Into Bite-Size Pieces

One large task can always be more easily accomplished in bite-size pieces over a long period of time. If you are given a project to complete in the next two weeks, get started that very day. Look at a calendar and find a way to break it into four or more evenly spaced parts. Don't just mark the final deadline date. Give yourself mini-deadline dates per segment and meet them.

Rewarding Yourself

Some people, however, lack the self-discipline necessary to break one large task into several small ones. These people won't worry if they miss one of their own deadlines, procrastinating and pushing it back to the second, third and final deadlines. They will only panic as the last deadline approaches. Hence my husband with his “hard” and “soft” deadlines.

A simple way to reinforce meeting your own mini-deadlines, says Leo, is to reward yourself. If you completed the first phase of the project ahead of time, reward yourself with a night out, a nice dinner or a gift for yourself. If necessary, pencil these in under each mini-deadline. A variation of this would be to abstain from something you like – chocolate or red wine - until the mini-deadline is met, with no exceptions.

Leo also points out sternly that “If you truly lack the self-discipline necessary to pull this off, you'll need a partner - kind of like an Alcoholics Anonymous sponsor - who oversees your day-to-day activities to make sure you never veer off course.” That’s me, in the case of my husband, my birthday and Christmas.

Plan Ahead

Leo says that meeting deadlines is a lot like playing a good game of chess. Good chess players plan five to ten moves ahead. Bad chess players only concentrate on the current move. If you always focus on events several days down the road, you'll be better equipped to handle any potential crises that pop up. It also allows you to set aside a day or two before the final deadline to polish your project and add finishing touches. Don't just focus on today - focus on the whole week.

Get Organized - Technology is your Friend

This is the number one reason people fail to meet deadlines. They simply aren't organized. In this age of smart phones, tablets and cloud computing, there's simply no excuse to be disorganised. Use your technology wisely

Be Able to Meet Short Notice Deadlines

Last, but not least, says Leo “always be ready to meet short-notice deadlines.” These occur at every workplace, upsetting employees and managers alike. Smoothly and coolly meeting a last minute deadline makes you look great - especially when your procrastinating co-workers are tearing their hair out.

Margaret Martin Associates offer coaching and bespoke training course to help develop skills such as planning and time management. Get in touch to discuss how we can help.

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