The Last Minute

I arrived at Blenheim Palace yesterday in preparation for Countryfile Live which starts on Thursday.  Blenheim is one of my favourite places in the UK, the parkland is fabulous, and the palace itself is stunning.

As I sit writing in the caravan, looking out over the peaceful countryside, I’m struck by how my attitude has changed in 2019. I have always had a reputation for doing things last minute. I used to see this as a virtue, signalling that I was busy and had a lot on the go. I have come to realise that this is nonsense.

My old approach to business was to try and cram as much as possible, into as short a time as possible. This strategy meant I never allocated enough time for any activity. I was always in a rush and consequently running late.

So, for a typical week, I would do all my office work on Monday and Tuesday and then start everything show related on Wednesday morning. Load the van, drive across the country to the event,  drop the caravan in the exhibitor’s campsite and then charge off to build the stand. I was always tired, rushed, and stressed. Heaven help me if anything went wrong. I had no margin for error.

For the last twenty years of my business career, I have operated in the same stressful way. But this year, I have adopted a very different approach, and I cannot tell you how much it has improved the quality of my life, and most importantly, my results!

I used to play a lot of tennis, and one thing that marks out the greats is the appearance they give of having all the time in the world. They are never flustered or rushed, the ball never arrives too fast or catches them unprepared.

With this in mind, I have started arriving at the showground a day or two early. Rather than trying to fit everything into one day, I now spread the workload over two or even three days, mixing it up with my office work, which I can do from the caravan.

It’s such a simple change but has relieved 90% of the stress from my job. I can anticipate the problems and the bottlenecks, for example, I can choose the day and time to unload and set up the stall, so avoiding the rain or the crowd of other exhibitors.

I drive more safely by not rushing, I don’t drink gallons of red bull to keep myself awake or pump my body full of adrenaline to get everything done. I complete the same amount of work as before, but it feels easy rather than stressful. I’m relaxed and in control rather than on the edge of panic!

I guess the key takeaway from today’s post is to do your work early rather than last minute. If you are under pressure and feeling stressed from a heavy workload, then I suggest you rethink the order in which you tackle tasks. Don’t lump them all together, even if outwardly, like my show it is all connected.

Some tasks need more brainpower; some are more physical; some have deadlines, some don’t. Don’t try and do all the physical jobs in one day. Nor too should you leave all the thinking tasks for one day, your brain will need a rest.

The secret is to break your activities down into small blocks of work that you can complete in a two- or three-hour session, then move onto something different. Follow a mental task with a physical one, and so on. This way, you come at each one fresher, and you will be more productive.

You have the ability and the skill to make your dreams a reality. The key to achieving them is learning to harness your enthusiasm and passion, making it work for you rather than against you.

Together, we climb the mountain, not in giant leaps but one small step at a time.

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