Time Management

by Di McLanachan

The panic button

You’re in a panic: there simply isn’t enough time for the job in hand. What can you do?

The first thing is to switch out of that panic state. Get up; walk over to the window; take a deep breath, and look outside for a few moments. Panic presses the amygdala button, activating the most primitive part of the brain and triggering the fight, flight or freeze response. Unless you are about to kill the person who’s overloaded you, run away to sea or sit like a mesmerised rabbit all day, panic will not help, so mentally switch off that panic button.

Calm down. Ask yourself what would happen if you were ill or out of commission for some reason. Sooner or later, the job would get done, the problem would be sorted and life would go on. No one is indispensable.

So tell yourself it’s going to be OK. After all, will you be in this state in a year? A month? A week? Sooner or later the panic will be over and you’ll be back to normal – you might as well start now!

How can you deal with this immediate problem? There are three possible answers:

  • Delay
  • Delegate
  • Do it!

If there is absolutely no chance of getting the job done on time, then maybe you need to set a new timetable. It may not seem a desirable option, but it might be better than doing the job badly or not at all.

  • Exactly how much more time do you need?
  • Which part of the job is time crucial?
  • Is there part of the job/one of the jobs that could be put on hold?
  • Who do you need to inform?

Delegating may be an option worth considering.

  • Is there any part of the job/jobs that you can delegate?
  • Can HR give you some temporary help?
  • Who would be doing the job if you weren’t there?
  • Is there anyone who can take over your normal duties to free your hands for this task?
  • If not, then what happens when you’re on holiday?

Do it! If delaying and delegating are not sensible or preferable options, then stop panicking. Take another deep breath or two. Stretch, shake yourself, and then get on and do it!

  • Do you need to take a few moments to make a list of tasks, in order of priority, so you know where to start?
  • Do you need to find somewhere quiet so that you can concentrate – perhaps even go home and get that report written away from the office?
  • Is there one particular part of the job you’ve been dreading and have put off?

If the answer to the last question is yes, then try the burst technique. Take that part of the task you have been procrastinating over and decide on a short length of time – say five or ten minutes (even though you perhaps dread doing the task, you know you can at least do it for a fixed length of time that you know for sure will end). Now really work flat out at the task for the time chosen. At the end, either carry on and get it done or stop and move on to something else before coming back to it.

Finally, when the panic’s over, come back to this topic and find out how to stop it happening again.