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Avoidable Stress: The Practicalities That Can Catch You Unawares

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When you have a large project deadline looming, keeping on top of everything can be a difficult task. We can get sucked into the very core of what it is that we need to deliver and forget to consider some of the practicalities of what we are trying to achieve. The end result is that we complete the core of what we need to do, think we are nearly done, then discover that there is a whole lot else we need to do in terms of practicalities. Then we end up going into a stress spiral as we try to psychologically deal with the fact that when we thought we were nearly there, we are not. This is when the negative stress juices really start to flow- when blind panic can set in. This is not good stress, this is bad stress, the very worst kind.

This applies to any project, at school level right the way through to high level corporations:

You've been writing a paper for school, finish the last bit of editing, think you are done, heave a huge sigh of relief, go to print and you're out of ink or out of paper, or worse both. Problem is, its 2am and your paper needs to be in by 9am.

You've completed a PowerPoint presentation that your boss is waiting for at the other side of the country so they can present this afternoon. The plan is to email it to them. You hit send, then 10 minutes later look in your inbox and notice that you have a bounced email-  it has bounced back as undeliverable.  Problem is, most email servers can't handle large email attachments.

Expletives are shouted, the adrenaline starts rushing and you feel sick to your stomach. The stress has kicked in. You felt really pleased by the end product only half an hour ago. That glowing feeling has now gone, replaced by panic and a deep-seated annoyance with yourself.  You were so engrossed in your project that you took your eye off the ball- you forgot the fundamentals that were essential for you to deliver your project in time with the minimum stress.

This is classic panic stress that we all experience at one time or another- but how do we avoid it? So often events like the above happen to us.  We swear we will never let it happen again... and it does. So what do we need to do to stop this unprecedented blood pressure hike?

5 top tips to prevent last minute stress-filled practical disasters:

Get real with yourself

If you always do things at the last minute then let's face it- nothing is ever really going to change drastically. Accept that's who you are, but plan around it.

Procastinate well

When starting out on a project there is usually an extended procastination phase. We will do anything to avoid properly starting. We just can't get into it. Well instead of faffing around, use this time usefully. Practically prepare, paying particular attention to the end stages when everything always goes wrong. What do you need to do or have to ensure that you can deliver what you have created? This might range from seeing if you have spare ink cartridges or paper or stamps to exploring what large file sending service to use to email your large email attachment.  It might mean printing out maps for the conference that you are presenting at because you know that you will be rushing out the door at the last minute with your ‘only-just-in-time' presentation completed.

Write a plan

Might seem ever so dull, but writing a plan or a list really is the way to go. Instead of looking at it as a ‘boring list of things I need to do', view it as ‘a list of my achievements'. Once you have completed each part of the project and can put a big fat tick next to each item you will feel good inside, really. People with defined goals are more motivated, achieve more and have higher self esteem.  Boosting these feelings will  also mean that if something unforeseen does come up you will have the self-confidence and belief in yourself to overcome this hurdle with the minimum stress.

Delegate

Where possible, delegate the practical bits. If you are a particularly creative type, practicalities aren't always your strong suit so find a ‘practical' person to help you out. That way you can concentrate on what you are good at without having to worry about the bits that you will never score more than a ‘D' on.

Learn from your past mistakes

Humans are creatures of habit, and unfortunately that includes the bad as well as the good. We declare that we will never allow things to happen again, and they do within a very short period of time. Why? Because we didn't do anything to prevent it from happening again, even though we knew we should. Do not allow yourself to be a victim of yourself. Instead, after one disaster, take the steps to ensure it doesn't happen again within a week. If you don't do it within that timeframe you will forget to do it as the raw feeling s of terror you experienced subside.

Change only happens if you take responsibility for your own behaviour and actively seek to change it. You won't see the self-improvement you want in your life if you are just sitting there waiting for it to magically happen. So if you want to reduce your stress levels, actively try to reduce the occurrence of high blood pressure situations by using the tips above. Dealing with the practicalities is an easy place to start and once you get the positive feedback from this you will be eager to make other changes in your life to reduce stress.
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