"It's just so ... huge."

A few years ago, my family and I visited the Atomium on a family vacation. The Atomium is a huge structure in Brussels that was originally built for the 1958 Brussels World's Fair. It stands over 330 feet (100 meters) tall and consists of nine connected stainless steel spheres to represent an iron crystal magnified 165 billion times.

I remember being in awe as I stared up at this enormous, very unique ... thing. 

Imagine the beginning of that project. Looking down at the blueprint, looking up at an empty space, and thinking:

Where do we even start? How will we ever finish?

I keep a small model of the Atomium on my desk as a reminder. Whenever I start a new project, it reminds me of an important lesson: 

Great work can't be rushed.

The Atomium rule doesn't excuse laziness. Rather, it's a reminder that in a world of instant gratification, it can be tempting to try and move quicker than you should. Instead, you need to:

  • schedule sufficient time for the project
  • break it down into manageable parts
  • start early--so you can continue building, improving, tweaking

But even the most carefully planned schedule can be thrown off track. Here is where emotional intelligence comes in.

Stay productive and ship great work--while prioritizing your mental health 

Emotional intelligence is the ability to identify, understand, and manage emotions. It includes the ability to make good decisions when under stress.

With that in mind, when your schedule goes off the rails, you have a choice to make:

Option 1: Rush the job and produce inferior work

Option 2: Invest more resources to help the job get done on time

Option 3: Adjust the schedule

Of course, you should evaluate each project on its own merits. But shipping inferior work will earn you a bad reputation. And if you're like me, you naturally gravitate to option two.
But option two takes a heavy toll, because your "resources" often extend beyond money to something even more important: your time, and your mental health.

Time in the form of working extra hours, including evenings or weekends.

Mental health that suffers when you drastically increase your stress level.

This is why emotionally intelligent people remember the Atomium rule, and consider option three whenever possible: adjusting the schedule.

Now, that won't work for every case, especially if you're working on a strict deadline and others are depending on your work to do their own. But I've found that I often put tons of stress on myself to finish a project or task by a certain day or time, when adjusting the schedule not only relieves stress, it creates opportunity.

That opportunity includes the chance to take a step back and learn from the work that's already been completed. It also allows you the chance to share what you've learned with others--both of which can save time in the long run.

How so?

Because when you take a step back, you can take note of mistakes you've made and avoid making them again. You will get ideas of how to improve the work further before the project is complete. And you can share that experience with any others who are working along with you. All of this improves the quality of the final product.

So, the next time you're overwhelmed with feelings of being late or behind, take the emotionally intelligent approach: Use those feelings to re-evaluate your situation. 

Ask yourself:

  • Can I adjust my schedule to reduce stress and improve quality?
  • If so, how can I use the additional time wisely?

Because, remember:

The Atomium wasn't built in a day. 

And your best work won't be, either.

(If you enjoyed this article, be sure to sign up for my free emotional intelligence course, where every day for 10 days, you get a rule designed to help you make emotions work for you, instead of against you.)