Still Pulling All-Nighters?

At some point you just have to let it go. You set the gears in motion and then let the outcome happen. I see a lot of people trying to control the minutia all the way until the end. They are pulling all-nighters right before a deadline, calling everyone in a panic to follow up on tasks. While tying up loose ends and validating the upcoming tasks is a value-added activity, there comes a point where it starts detracting from overall performance.

I think back to my wedding day. A year’s worth of planning went into it! I had checklists, timelines, budgets…I was prepared. When the day of the wedding came, I didn’t worry. When my brother didn’t show up for pictures, even though that’s what his personalized schedule said, oh well. It was showtime. My level of influence and ability to impact outcomes had significantly diminished at that point. Oh sure, I could have become Bridezilla and demanded someone find him, but in reality, the overall success of the day would have decreased if I had. As time approaches zero, ability to influence the outcome decreases exponentially.

So what’s the best way to get successful results? Glad you asked.

Plan early. Proper planning up front improves end results. I’ve seen this many times on projects. If the first phase of the project was completed poorly, subsequent phases of a project are built on a shaky foundation. The inadequate manifests in rework, compromises, and compressed schedules to make up time. Time spent early in planning (whether for a family trip, building a house, or a $9 million project) will improve results.

Document well. The best laid plans, if not documented, will be hard to execute. If you are trying to keep everything in your head, the chances of mistakes skyrocket. As the big day comes (whatever it is), you may start wondering why you chose A over B. You knew you had a great reason for it at the time, but now can’t remember, and so you question your decision. Or you leave out Step 23 of 121. Whatever it is, if it’s documented, the quality of execution increases.

Communicate effectively. I wish we had telepathy…well, telepathy that we can turn on and off. I’d rather people not know how much analysis I go through just to decide what to have for lunch. Anyway, if we had telepathy, it would be easier to share plans and make sure we are all on the same page! Until that happens, it’s critical to ensure there is effective communication with those involved in your project or activity. They can’t read your mind, so you have to find other ways to communicate the big picture (what you are ultimately trying to achieve) and the little details (what each individual role in the project is). If you are the leader, planner, etc, it’s your job to make sure everyone understands what is expected of them.

Trust yourself. At some point you have to trust your planning (and your team) and let the outcome happen. The night before a big project was implemented, my team went out for happy hour. At that point whatever was going to happen would happen. Stress and being overbearing would not significantly change the outcome of the next day, so it was time to trust in our planning and let the day play out.

Let go. As I talked about in another post, unless you directly influence the saving of lives, then just let it go. Most times, in the grand scheme of things, glitches and hiccups are not going to matter. Invariably something will go wrong at some point, and what really matters is how you react and take leadership in that moment.

If you plan ahead, you won’t have any all-nighters studying for your final exam. The same is true in your projects. Slow down, take the time to plan up front, and just let it unfold in the end. The stress you cause yourself the night before really isn’t worth the ROI.

Jana Axline is president and leadership coach at Axline Solutions and author of Becoming You. Through her leadership musings she inspires audiences to grow as leaders and ultimately achieve who they were created to be. For more information visit Axline Solutions.

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