• Adam Walter

There’s No Minute Like the Last Minute

Listen: Humanize IT Podcast Blog Ep 129

Planning for last-minute success comes down to how you measure importance vs. urgency when planning your tasks. Although sometimes saving projects for the eleventh hour can give you a boost of positive motivation, learning how to structure your week ahead of time can make deadline stress a thing of the past.

IT professionals and business people alike have always had a love-hate relationship with last-minute pressure. It’s not all bad, because it provides an extra level of focus during crunchtime. You’re more likely to drop everything and make that project your only priority once you know the deadline is near. As long as you “prepare to procrastinate” by strategically choosing what to save for the last minute, you can actually find plenty of value in waiting.

But if you let too much pile up, you’ll get in trouble — especially in the IT world, where chasing one urgent problem after the next is a daily occurrence. Technology professionals often have to bounce around in “firefighting mode” and fix a hodgepodge of systems on the fly. When the unexpected comes up, it makes it even harder for them to succeed in the last minute.

As a business person, try to give your IT people a heads up so they’re not always firefighting. Tell them your large-scale plan and give them time to put a sound infrastructure in place.

As an IT person, evaluate how long it usually takes you to complete a task, then set your deadline for an hour before that. Then, use the Eisenhower Matrix to determine your level of importance vs. urgency.

This is a great way to avoid making the wrong last-minute decisions. Importance overrides urgency if its long-term effects will make a bigger impact. If your task has a clear deadline and consequences for not taking immediate action, get it done now. If your task doesn’t have a deadline, but will put you closer to your goals in the future, schedule it. It’s that simple!

Keep in mind: if you find that most projects are going in both your urgent and important columns, then nothing becomes urgent and important. Dig deep to identify what’s truly important and which criteria you use to measure that importance.

Additionally, business and technology professionals can both benefit from scheduling their week out in a way that leaves room for error. It’s wise to plan for the unplanned with some breathing room at the end of the week. Adam makes an effort to never schedule anything past noon on a Friday, leaving his afternoon open to fine-tune all the “extras” that have popped up throughout the week.

If his Friday starts filling up, he realizes his time wasn’t well-prioritized. If he has an especially productive week, he’s done at noon! Usually, though, Friday afternoon comes around and there are just a few tasks he wants to clean up a bit. And luckily, he’s budgeted the proper time required to do so. Friday, he said, should be your quiet day unless your industry demands otherwise.

By carefully planning your week, weighing importance and urgency and knowing when to take advantage of last-minute pressure, in time you’ll learn how to meet every deadline with ease.

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