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How to Manage a Last Minute Crunch: 6 Tips
 

Sometimes important projects stall until the very last minute and then you have to scramble. Put some method to your madness with these six tips.

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No matter how much you try, you can't control everything and everyone. You may be the greatest planner and scheduler in the world, but often stuff happens that can derail your plans and force you to regroup. 

This is how you end up in a last minute crunch.

This last weekend was just that sort of crunch for me. I have been readying to launch a new radio show since July.  Four times when I thought the launch date was set, it was moved. I would plan accordingly, carefully setting up the talent, creative process, rehearsals, website and promotion. Many of these details were co-dependent upon outside contractors, the station, and the network, which of course had its own plan and agenda. The stakes were high so I needed to be flexible, and I was. We were all set to go in November and then the holidays distracted and set up a wait-then-hurry-up scenario, putting us in a mad scramble.

There was more than enough anxiety right up to the finish line, but happily, several people on my team have theatre backgrounds so a hectic rush before opening wasn't totally new to us. I'm happy to say that despite the delays we launched the show and website on time and on budget, to good reviews. Here are the tips my team and I used to excel through the challenge.

1. Take a breath. The natural tendency when you're in a time crunch occurs is to panic and accelerate.  Don't. Moving faster without a reassessment is the surest way to waste time and make mistakes. Instead, take a breath and get your head clear. Move off unrelated priorities and get your team to do the same. Set a time for a group meeting where you can put all heads together and set a workable, flexible plan to get to completion. Make sure you get input from all involved and set a plan everyone buys into.  Then make sure all are ready and willing to be accountable for their parts. As soon as we got the go ahead, we got everyone together and got aligned.

2.  Do brutal triage. You have to be realistic about what can actually be done in the timeframe. Others may demand higher performance, but usually there is a limit on what is humanly possible with the team and resources you have.  You want to constantly reassess your capability as you move closer to the deadline, eliminating details that can wait or are unimportant. Continuously ask about details. Are they essential? Can they wait or be abandoned? We continued to simplify our script and website right up until we launched the show. We only wanted the finished pieces to be public. Everything else could be faked behind the scenes or wait until next week.

3. Manage a punch list. Whenever I am in a time crunch I create a checklist of details to be done. I had my associate producer get one from every member of the team. Then I could check off each item as we finished or decide how to adapt around it. I kept that list close at hand and checked it constantly so no detail was left behind. It allowed me to constantly evaluate the most productive and efficient approach. And it felt emotionally refreshing in the battle for time to see the list get smaller. It also helps to highlight the problem areas near the end.

4. Enlist help. There is no glory in failing alone.  I kept my networking list close by and called in reinforcements as needed. Some team members were reluctant to accept the help at first, but you have to know when to put ego aside to get the job done. As a leader you have to also recognize that not all helpers are helpful. Pick your cavalry carefully. One untrustworthy or combative addition can cost you time and success.

5. Regroup hourly. Many may think this will waste time or feel like micromanagement. It doesn't have to be that way. The communication can be as simple as having each member of the team check in with a simple text or email like: "On Track" or "Still need..." Doing this gives you a real time dashboard of how the process is moving along and whether or not there are any problem areas that need addressing. The regrouping is in your head with all the information you get. Then go back to the punch list and keep moving.

6. Stay cordial and appreciative. Crunch time is stressful. An argument or bad attitude can cost you time and productivity. Make sure you give your team lots of room to vent frustrations without repercussions. And make sure there' s a culture of forgiveness too. People at a fast pace are bound to make mistakes and step on toes. Find ways to make them laugh and have fun. When all is said and done the team should be proud of what they accomplish, especially with the added pressure and restraints. The added adrenaline and excitement is good for a high so make sure they enjoy the rush!

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IMAGE: Getty
Last updated: Jan 13, 2014

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An Inc. 500 entrepreneur with a more than $1 billion sales and marketing track record, KEVIN DAUM is the best-selling author of Video Marketing for Dummies and the executive producer of Amilya! on 77WABC New York.
@awesomeroar




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