Clock’s Ticking!

What do you do in the last minute?

Despite our best efforts in planning, sometimes you’re just up against the buzzer. Maybe you lost track of time, maybe emergencies came up, or maybe you just didn’t plan as well as you thought. But no matter the cause, in those cases you still have to ship something.

What are your techniques for minimizing the damage to your abilities that comes from the pressure and lack of resources?

To start, focus on your “minimum viable product.” Something presentable is better than nothing at all, so ignore the theoretically perfect and go for whatever works. The world is full of second chances, so I guarantee you’ll have time to come back and polish your efforts later if it’s necessary. Many times, it won’t be.

Next, draw on the well of temporary energy. There are best practices for sustainable effort without burnout, but when it’s crunch time, borrowing against future energy is a good play. Crank up your motivation playlist, drink some coffee, and maybe sacrifice a daily activity like working out (unless that actually gives you a burst, as it does with some people). I believe that it’s actually good to pull an all-nighter every once in a while, even if just to remind yourself that you can.

Lastly, don’t second-guess yourself. Get to the flow state as soon as you can, and when you get there, let it ride. The work you produce in that state can be surprisingly good, but once your burst of high energy runs out and the fatigue starts to set back in, you’re not in a good position to judge your own efforts. If you can outsource a second set of eyes in the eleventh hour, great; but if you can’t, just ship. You’re just as likely to turn a correct answer into a wrong one as you are to make some small marginal improvement.

And of course, when it’s all done and you’ve rested, examine the situation that led you here. It’s good to be able to do this when necessary, because a few instances are unavoidable in life. But it’s also good to minimize them, and that means learning from your past mistakes.

There’s always a new clock tomorrow.

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