Workplace anxiety usually comes from deep-seated concerns about something we have to face. Increasingly, that anxiety is coming from having to perform a task, complete a project or do a presentation that we just have not had enough time to prepare for.
It’s an awful feeling – knowing that you have not done what is promised and expected by others, or that you are going to be on stage in front of everyone and that your performance is going to be well below that which you are capable of. Some people are fantastic at doing off-the-cuff presentations, but for most a good deal of preparation is needed to do our best. But when something needs to be handed in, completed, sent, quoted, and it is half-baked, overdue and missing in action – it makes you look highly unprofessional.
Where does the time go?
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This is the question everyone seems to ask. Every day we start off with great intentions to use every spare minute on high-yield activities but come to the end of the day with only a subset of things crossed off our list. Interruptions, meetings, procrastination, unexpected crises, personal dramas and co-workers can all steal little pieces of time from you. You can’t afford to wait for time to open up for you to get things done – it takes a proactive, prioritising approach to stop time leaking out the edges and to get the most important things done.
How do you get it back?
This is a trick question – you can never get time back. You can, however, start to stake claim on what is ahead of you. Make sure that you are in complete agreement with your team or your manager about what the most important things are, and communicate this frequently with co-workers and management. Assertively blocking interruptions is essential to opening up time for you to prepare for important things. You also need a longer-term approach than setting up a daily to-do list.
How do you get started?
You have to start small, and you have to start as soon as possible. After reading this article you should pick all of the long-term appointments and tasks you have ahead of you and spend 5-10 minutes on each planning and breaking them down. From there you can set non-negotiatble times that you will work and update your list. Breaking the tasks down and setting checkpoints saves you from that risky thought pattern “oh I have plenty of time to get it done”. That time gets swallowed up very quickly unless you are actively setting a schedule to stay on track.
How do you stay on track?
Good plans are a great start but when reality hits they tend to go out the window. Staying on track is difficult because of all the unexpected interruptions that happen between now and the date of your longer terms commitments. Non-negotiable time slots are great in theory but when your manager or key client suddenly calls a meeting and you lose that previously allocated hour it becomes very difficult. The way to stay on track isn’t always about working harder, faster and squeezing more in. Sometimes it is about consciously reminding yourself about how uncomfortable it is to go in underprepared. This can re-align your priorities to a longer-term view. This should also be balanced by reminding yourself how much more confident you will feel with solid preparation.