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29 Aug

Hit the breaks when the rush is over

Datum: 2017-08-29 16:06

Occa­sion­al­ly we have a dead­line before which the work­load seems to increase, and our work­ing speed cer­tain­ly does. For some, this rarely hap­pens, but for oth­ers it hap­pens quite often. As the due day looms clos­er (or the hour, for that mat­ter), we work with increas­ing inten­si­ty. We answer emails and men­tions regard­ing what we are due to deliv­er quick­ly, and we attend to tasks that have noth­ing to do with the impor­tant dead­line before us half­heart­ed­ly (if at all). For a few moments here and there we real­ize how much tun­nel-vision we have obtained with our laser-like focus on this impor­tant deadline.

And so the day of deliv­ery pass­es. We made it! This is when some col­lapse utter­ly exhaust­ed as they push the breaks and slow down after hav­ing accom­plished what they had to. Oth­ers have got­ten into a high gear and have pushed the ped­al to the met­al all the way to the fin­ish line, and now hav­ing passed it, have trou­ble slow­ing down, so they con­tin­ue work­ing in the same high tem­po — only now with oth­er things and tasks, such as those neglect­ed whilst focus­ing on the big deadline.

Fast and prob­a­bly faulty
When the tem­po is high we risk doing things too fast to notice the errors we might make sim­ply due to our work­ing speed. We make more arbi­trary choic­es, and might do what­ev­er comes our way with­out paus­ing to reflect on whether this is the right thing to do now or not. We would cast few­er pearls before swine” and pri­or­i­tize more accu­rate­ly if we just low­ered our tem­po now when we are not actu­al­ly in a hur­ry any­more, and thought twice about what we are doing and why before tak­ing action.

If the inten­si­ty of our work and tem­po does not decrease by itself after meet­ing a big, impor­tant dead­line, then we are wise to take mea­sures to active­ly bring it down a notch.

Do this
If you tend to con­tin­ue full steam ahead even after dead­line, and if you would want to set your pri­or­i­ties more con­scious­ly and sober­ly after it is done, then do this:

  1. Take a look in your cal­en­dar and find the next suit­able dead­line on which you will prac­tice this new strategy.

  2. Sched­ule reflec­tion-time with your­self the day after your have met your dead­line. Are you able to reserve the entire day for doing some­thing com­plete­ly dif­fer­ent from what you usu­al­ly work with (such as a walk in the for­est, a day at the spa, freely reflect­ing off site” or some­thing else)? Can you at least set aside a few hours? Thir­ty min­utes? Fif­teen min­utes? Any­thing is bet­ter than no time at all to stop and reflect on what your next move ought to be.

  3. When you reflect, emp­ty out all your thoughts regard­ing what you have going on at the moment. What things should have the high­est pri­or­i­ty for the next while to come, giv­en the sit­u­a­tion and your cur­rent cir­cum­stances? What tasks del­e­gat­ed from who and regard­ing what should you def­i­nite­ly not pri­or­i­tize at the moment — regard­less how much they com­plain or try to get your atten­tion. In oth­er words, don’t let the squeaky wheel get the grease.

Or, do this:

  • Describe the ten­den­cy to a col­league or friend who you know is much bet­ter than you at slow­ing down and keep track of their tem­po, and ask them to kind­ly remind you to take a breather and reflect for a moment on what to do next and at what pace once the dead­line has passed. You already know when the next dead­line will be, so per­haps you can even set a date right now for meet­ing up some time soon after the dead­line. Per­haps this way of remind­ing your­self to calm down will come more nat­u­ral­ly if you sched­ule a lunch date for the day after the dead­line, since lunch­es are far eas­i­er to stick to and fol­low through with than an ambigu­ous can you remind me?”-date.

Or, find your own way of mak­ing your­self aware of that it is now alright to take it down a notch or two, since the dead­line is done.

More con­scious­ly
If you take your tem­po down a bit when you do not nec­es­sar­i­ly need it to be high, you will with time become more present and thus make more con­scious deci­sions in terms of set­ting pri­or­i­ties. Instead of hit­ting the balls as they come fly­ing at you, you will focus on the right balls and hit with greater pow­er and accu­ra­cy, which will def­i­nite­ly be to your advan­tage in the long-run.

How do you slow down?
What’s your best way of get­ting a grip on your­self and get­ting some per­spec­tive on your sit­u­a­tion after hav­ing raced towards the fin­ish line? Tell me and oth­er read­ers in a comment.