We work hard and we’d like to play hard—and we would play hard, if we could just get out of and stay out of crisis-mode. But it seems no matter how many extra hours we put in or how hard we work, it’s never enough. Work piles up and too often, we feel guilty if we take a lunch break never mind an actual lunch hour. We tell ourselves we’ll work through the weekend to catch up, and we do, but tasks seem to continue to multiply and before we know it, we’re working in a constant state of crisis.
Crisis-mode work is never our best work. It’s our “get this done and get it off our desk” work so we can move on to the next crisis-mode project. This is a bad way to function on so many levels. Work is impacted, health is impacted, physically and emotionally, and things just go downhill from there.
So what typically sucks us into crisis-mode and how do we get out—and stay out—of it?
Top Challenge and Tip #1
Getting Sucked In To Over-Committing:
Someone asks us to take on a project or a volunteer position, or some other commitment that we feel compelled to do, or we’re eager to do because we think it’ll be fun or it is a worthy cause or good for networking or beneficial to us in some other way.
We know we don’t have time to devote to it, but somehow we’ll make it work. Often the desire to get involved and help holds emotional appeal and resisting . . . well, we honestly don’t want to resist, so we say yes and commit anyway.
Then comes time to do the work and it becomes clear we don’t have time to devote to it and we should have said no. Regardless of the reason, we can’t give our best, so we give it what we’ve got—which isn’t good for us or for the project and does not respect anyone involved (including the project itself). So we do a tepid job and the worthy project suffers. So does our reputation.
It is far better to refuse to commit than to commit and do a tepid job that harms a worthy project. Not always easy to do, but the right thing to do for you, for the person who asked you to participate, and for the project (and for those who stand to benefit from it).
Avoiding Over-Commitment Crisis-Mode:
When asked to commit, do an honest assessment of your situation. If you can and wish to commit, and you can allocate the time needed to perform well, then commit. If not, refuse. You’ll be doing yourself, the project manager, and the project the best service by just saying no.
Top Challenge and Tip #2
Getting Sucked In To Procrastination:
Because we’re busy, we tend to put off doing things until they must be done. Sometimes this works out all right, but other times, the unexpected crops up and we must shift our focus to something else. That focus shift sucks us into crisis-mode on the original project. And while we’re coping with the fallout from the unexpected shift and the original-project now in crisis, our next project’s deadline looms closer and closer. It doesn’t take much to find ourselves in the vortex of chaotic confusion.
Avoiding Procrastination Crisis-Mode:
The simple answer is to not procrastinate. But even when we don’t, we can get caught up by events that are simply out of our control. In those situations, as well as to combat the impact of procrastination, we have to make a concerted effort to work ahead. By that, I mean to prioritize what we do so that our most important work is done first. A simple priority list will nix crisis-mode due to procrastination and lessen the fallout on those unexpected curve balls that come our way.
If you consistently work in advance as is possible and do your most urgent work first, then when you get a curve ball, you can switch focus without creating a crisis for yourself. You have a little padding, if you will, to absorb the new task, and that padding negates the curve ball creating a crisis.
On the surface, these two tips might seem simplistic. They are simple, but that doesn’t mean they’re not solid gold on keeping you out of crisis-mode. Implemented into your work cycle, you will spend more time balanced and less time frazzled. In part, because you’re focused and clear on your objectives and what you must do. And in part because you’re working by priority, first clearing the most urgent, which is mostly likely to become critical and flare into a crisis. In doing so, you’re keeping yourself more balanced and that elevates the quality of your output.
We can’t totally eliminate crisis-mode. At times, it’s unavoidable and we all must work while in it. But we don’t have to invite it or to live in a constant state of it. Addressing these two top challenges and implementing their responding tips help us avoid the unnecessary and its ill effects on us and our lives.
NOTE from Vicki:
A quick note. The In-Case-of-Emergency Workbook comes out 7/18. You can preorder your copy now at your favorite retailer.