Work Ahead of the Power Curve

May 28, 2016

Do you ever find yourself scrambling near a deadline to get all the work done? I suspect we have all experienced a time crunch on a project, whether it was a term paper in school, a special project at work, or even a party to celebrate a holiday.

As we pull an all-nighter to finish our project just ahead of the deadline, what we are really doing is lowering our chances of a successful effort and suffering unnecessary stress.

The alternative is to arrange your life so that you can complete most of the work well ahead of the due date. My mentor used to refer to this as “working ahead of the power curve.” That may seem impossible to do, but hang in with me and I will make it more doable for you. Before we discuss the process, let’s explore the benefits.

There are many advantages of getting the majority of work done early. Here are seven obvious advantages:

1. You have more time to polish the work, so the final quality is significantly higher.

2. You can do dry runs of the material, so your work comes out more professional looking.

3. You can relax and not be uptight about working close to the deadline. That also improves the quality of the material along with reducing your stress level.

4. You get the reputation as an organized person who has his or her act together.

5. You can respond better to unanticipated emergency situations because your current plate of work is not overflowing.

6. You can spend some time looking at potential problems that might arise and have contingencies ready to go.

7. Since you know you are prepared, you are more confident and relaxed when the event arrives.

With the help of my mentor, I got the idea of doing this many years ago. It sounded impossible to me at the time because, like everyone else, I was always so backed up with dozens of projects.

Actually, it was not as difficult as I thought to get into the habit of tricking myself into believing the deadline was a week or two ahead of the actual due date.

Once I experienced the tremendous benefits of working ahead of the power curve, as described above, I have tried to work that way ever since. There are still some times when things get just overwhelming, but when that happens, I just get up earlier to keep things moving.

A professor of mine in college used to advise students to write papers like they were climbing a mountain. Get as far up the mountain on the first day as you can. Then the path to the top on subsequent days gets easier and more enjoyable.

Just write the bulk of the paper quickly and have it in draft form as early as possible, then you can go back and refine it at a more metered pace when you are relaxed. It is a lot easier that way.

I use this system with my weekly blog articles. I have an “inventory” of articles that stretch out for a few months in front of when they are actually published. When my inventory starts to get below four weeks, that is the signal to plunk out another 4-8 articles.

I do that quickly based on little notes I have made to myself along the way of interesting topics to discuss. Once the drafts are done, I can refine the writing as the time to actually publish them gets closer.

Using this method allows me to keep a stream of content going at all times. I can, and often do, accumulate similar articles into a book or a video program format. The result is a continual stream of fresh content coming out without a lot of stress or panic.

Try the formula of working ahead of the power curve in your life. If you can acquire the discipline to do it, you will find that the quality of your work will rise, while at the same time your stress level will go down. It is a life skill worth cultivating.

Bob Whipple, MBA, CPLP, is a consultant, trainer, speaker, and author in the areas of leadership and trust. He is the author of: The Trust Factor: Advanced Leadership for Professionals, Understanding E-Body Language: Building Trust Online, and Leading with Trust is Like Sailing Downwind. Bob has many years as a senior executive with a Fortune 500 Company and with non-profit organizations. For more information, or to bring Bob in to speak at your next event, contact him at http://www.Leadergrow.com, bwhipple@leadergrow.com or 585.392.7763


What Are You putting in Their Stockings This Year

December 23, 2012

Christmas StockingLast year, I wrote an article entitled “What’s Under Your Tree” that turned out to be very popular. The concept was, in a organizational setting, what gifts are we bringing to our co-workers. I’m not talking about physical gifts here, rather I am referring to things like the gift of our time, our attention, recognition, encouragement, and many other intangible gifts that make a huge difference in the relationships between people.

This year I thought of a variant of the same theme around the image of a Christmas Stocking. When I was growing up, we opened the stockings first thing in the morning on Christmas Day. In fact, us kids would be first up, jumping up and down on our parents’ bed to make them get up so that we could go down and see what was in our stockings.

Everyone knew that the presents in the stockings were more of an entertainment nature. They were small in value, but they kept us occupied and intrigued during the early morning hours until the adults got ready to open the bigger presents under the tree.

My analogy for things we might put in the stockings of others at work might include the following items:

Being cheerful toward the other person. Just because we are having a hard day, that’s no reason we have to project negativity onto our co-workers. We can show a positive demeanor in most situations and brighten their day considerably.

Doing small favors. Getting a cup of coffee for the other person is a small gesture, but at times it can be a big deal. Sharing office supplies rather than hoarding them would be another example of a small favor. Just saying thank you for anything done by someone else that is helpful to you is a kind gesture that promotes goodwill.

Do not gossip. Try to not participate in negative conversations about other people, especially when they are not around to defend themselves. Just remembering the Golden Rule is a good way to prevent negativity from permeating side conversations. If someone is sharing some dirt about another individual simply say, “I would rather not discuss this unless he is here to participate.”

Help lighten the load of the other person. The habitual time pressure seems to be getting worse each year. Even though you have significant time pressure yourself, there will be opportunities for you to extend a little time to help other people lighten their own load. Those little favors add up to significant goodwill in the long run.

Put in a good word. Mentioning something positive about another person to an individual, such as his supervisor, can create a pattern of support that helps people help each other through some of the difficult times. You do not need to go overboard with false flattery or praise; just simply reflect on the good efforts and work by other people. This will serve you in good stead, as they will often return the favor.

Provide a shoulder to cry on. People need to vent sometimes just to maintain sanity. If you allow them to get some of the poison out with a rant, it can help lighten their load. This is a delicate area, because it can be a trap if you become the habitual dumping ground for all of the small annoyances of life. You need to find a balance where people view you as being empathetic to their situation but not a time consuming source of hearing confessions.

Be polite. Simply extend the common courtesies of a professional atmosphere in every interface, if possible. These are small gestures such as answering email requests promptly, respecting the need for a quiet atmosphere in which to work, or being punctual to meetings or events.

The analogy of a stocking full of gifts at work is all about helping other people in little ways that form an important pattern that improves their working life. Do these things, and people will respond in very positive ways to you.


Working Ahead of the Power Curve

November 4, 2012

Ever find yourself scrambling near a deadline to get all the work done? I suspect we have all experienced a time crunch on a project, whether it was a term paper in school, a special project at work, or even a party to celebrate a holiday. As we pull an all-nighter to finish our project just ahead of the deadline, what we are really doing is lowering our chances of a successful effort.

The alternative is to arrange your life so that you can complete your work well ahead of the due date. My mentor used to refer to this as “working ahead of the power curve.” There are many advantages of getting the work done early. Here are seven obvious advantages:

1. You have more time to polish the work, so the quality is significantly higher.

2. You can do dry runs of the material, so your work comes out more professional looking.

3. You can relax and not be uptight about working close to the deadline. That also improves the quality of the material along with the quality of your life.

4. You get the reputation as an organized person who has his or her act together.

5. You can spend some time looking at potential problems that might arise and have contingencies ready to go.

6. Since you know you are prepared, you appear more confident and relaxed when the event arrives.

7. You are more creative because there is time to soak on ideas.

With the help of my mentor, I got the idea of doing this many years ago. It sounded impossible to me at the time because, like everyone else, I was always so backed up with dozens of projects. Actually, it was not as difficult as I thought to get into the habit of tricking myself into believing the deadline was a week or two ahead of the actual due date. Once I experienced the tremendous benefits of working ahead of the power curve, as described above, I have tried to work that way ever since.

There are still some times when things get just overwhelming, but when that happens, I just get up earlier to keep things moving.

Try the formula of working ahead of the power curve in your life. If you can acquire the discipline to do it, you will find that the quality of your work will rise, while at the same time your stress level will go down. It is a life skill well worth cultivating.