Tip #1. In order to figure out what time to leave (or start a project), count back from the time you need to be there (or to finish the project). This will give you your start time. If it is a project, figure out how many hours it will take and then decide when you will put in that time. It is surprising to me how often we approach a deadline assuming we will make it because the deadline is not imminent. Yet we have no plan to find the time to do it. Many people run their businesses and lives this way with success. But it leads to urgency and stress and there is an easier way to do it.
Often attorneys and other busy professionals schedule their time in a way that has them working on what is right in front of them. In this way, they figure if the deadline is not near, they will get to it eventually. But they find themselves behind the 8 ball because they do not schedule time to work on their projects and when the deadline becomes imminent then they rush to get it done, pushing other things aside. This of course leads to more urgency.
This keeps them in an “emergency” mindset. Many of their emergencies do not arise because of short time frames. The majority of the emergencies are created by working on what is right in front of them and not planning for deadlines ahead of time.
A side effect of this practice is that when we regularly work this way, we can become addicted to the motivation of imminent deadlines. The looming due date becomes both the carrot and the stick. Like many attorneys and other professionals, we operate under fear and high adrenaline, both of which are powerful motivators. Often, when we work in this mindset, once a deadline is met, if the next project is not yet an emergency, we are unmotivated to work on it. This creates a cycle in which we are driven by our adrenaline rushes and urgency mindset. But the body simply is not designed to be in constant adrenaline rush. This adrenaline rush produces a high level of physical and mental stress, dissatisfaction, and often feelings of anger and hopelessness.
The emergency cycle is largely reactive and short-term in nature. When we work only on emergencies, we focus only on what is right in front of us. We do not see how this work connects to our larger mission; we usually see only how doing this work will keep us from getting in trouble.
One way to interrupt this cycle is tip #1: when you find out about a deadline, put it on your calendar. Then look at the project and estimate how long it will take to do the project. If it’s tough to figure out, you might break it down into specific tasks and make an estimate of time for each task. Then schedule time to do it. Train yourself to do this for every project.