The scene: You’ve got two conference calls going at once. You’re scrambling to finish a presentation that a client needed half an hour ago so you can get out the door to make a meeting that’s 20 minutes away, but starts in 10 minutes.
So you’d better move fast, right?
Well, not necessarily. The truth is that rushing is not very productive. "It detracts from our ability to be fully present," says Gail Angelo, a leadership coach and consultant. People make mistakes. They forget things, and "a person’s ability to really communicate their point of view clearly and in a compelling way starts to fall off." Here are some ways to tone it down, and get more done:
If you’re agitated because you’re 20 minutes late to a meeting with someone you really want to see, Angelo recommends asking yourself these questions: "How is this current behavior serving you? What is it costing you? And is the cost benefit ratio worth it?"
While being chronically late is disrespectful to other people, being upset at any given meeting won’t make it go better. Use one of your multitude of devices to contact the person, apologize, and give an honest estimation of when you will be there and able to give the person your full attention. Then, over the long term...
I like to keep Fridays free, but Angelo notes that many of her clients find it more doable to build one to two hours of slack time into their schedules, two to three times a week. You won’t actually get those hours "off" but they give you breathing room when things run over or unexpected issues pop up.
Or, ideally, you can use that time for productive work you never get to—the stuff that would keep you from rushing in the future. Some people think that filling every minute shows you’re important, but I maintain that the ultimate sign of success is an open calendar.
Transitions are tough—either extricating yourself from one appointment to get to another, or resisting the temptation to send one more email before you run out the door. Both can leave you frantic. An alarm on your watch or phone provides a neutral, objective reminder that it’s time to move along before rushing is necessary. You’re not the one saying it’s time for this meeting to end. It’s your alarm!
This is such a huge part of time management that it deserves its own post. But the basic idea is to stop thinking it takes you 20 minutes to get to work when it’s never taken you less than 25. If you can’t get this right, you will always be rushing.
Every few hours, look at what’s on your agenda for the day. Angelo recommends asking yourself "Does it need to be done now? Does it need to be done by you? Or could you better leverage and develop the talents of other people?" This last point is critical. You may be rushing because there’s too much on your plate. Say no, and offload what you can. When you can, just let it go. Done beats perfect 95% of the time.
[Image: Flickr user Andreas.]