Preparing last-minute again?
A quick guide to help you through the stress of last-minute preparations
So you promised yourself that this time it was going to be different. You intended to prepare for it earlier — was it a travel, a presentation at work or a big meeting? Whatever the occasion, you knew that there was this undertaking coming your way, and it was important for you. So you decided: you were not going to wait till the last moment to start prepping for it.
Yet, here you are again. Just a day or two left before your “day zero” and you know you are not even close to ready. Your mind is overwhelmed by countless things that still need doing before you set off for your holidays or get yourself to this all-important conference. And instead of being able to enjoy this extraordinary event coming in your life — you are stressing out. There is just not enough time left. There is so much to sort out. How are you going to… Aaaah!
I have found myself in this situation far too many times not to notice how common it is. And it seems that no matter how hard I try to avoid it, it just happens from time to time.
A few months ago I was going through all the feelings I described above — not being even close to ready for a two-month travel which I was about to embark on. Two days before the trip I was finding my way through the feelings of anxiety, overwhelm and distraction, while trying to figure out how to get ready and stay sane at the same time. And this time, I learned something.
Here are my tips for you to take care of yourself and your affairs, when faced with any kind of last-minute preparations.
Stop dissing yourself.
It is likely that your most sophisticated self-sabotaging techniques are coming into play right now. In your head you might now be hearing things like: Great job on ruining this again or What kind of an ass postpones it till the last moment?!. It seems like you are unconsciously punishing yourself for not being as prepared as you would like to be.
So… gently turn the voices in your head down. What is past is past and you cannot do anything about yesterday or a week ago. Besides, try to realise that you probably had your reasons for not getting your travel shopping or insurance earlier. Maybe you were tired or had to take your dog to the vet? It’s ok and it’s valid. Forgive yourself and focus on what action you can take now.
If you are like me, you probably had an idea of doing everything perfectly in the first place, in order to be as prepared as you possibly can. Now you find yourself at a point of knowing that not all of those things can be done in such a short period of time. That’s fine, digest it. Acknowledge that you may have to compromise or postpone some of your affairs.
You thought it would be ideal to go to the hairdresser’s before this big meeting, so that you have an extra confidence boost? Surely it would be great, but you might want to verify your to-do list now and revise your “perfect” plan. How about postponing the new haircut and having it as a treat after the stressful presentation? Instead, you will have more time for the most crucial tasks — like putting your notes together or choosing a nice outfit. Just decide what is the most important now and take care of that first.
Make it fun.
Or, in other words: focus on the task at hand. Surely you cannot enjoy packing your suitcase while simultaneously bragging about all the things that are not done yet and worrying that you will not manage to complete everything on time. Try to focus on one task at a time.
If you are packing, enjoy matching outfits together and treat yourself by putting in an extra pair of shoes or a necklace you may want to wear on a special evening. Spending the night finishing a project? Arrange your working space in a new manner or appreciate the sunrise that you wouldn’t otherwise see. There is always a way of finding little pleasures in seemingly mundane tasks — as long as you are present and attentive to what you are doing and how you are feeling. So give yourself a little gift in the midst of the stressing preparation.
Preserve your routines.
The last days of preparing for something big can seem so busy and overloaded with to-dos, that you might be tempted to skip the rituals that help you stay happy and sane every day. By all means — do not skip them, unless there really is no other way.
It doesn’t matter whether it is about your morning meditation, coffee with your partner, afternoon nap or an evening read. Now is the time when you need your little routines more than ever, as these are the activities that help you through the hectic days. If you really feel like you don’t have the time — cut your practice or organise it in a more suitable way. Instead of 15 minutes of yoga, do 5. Instead of reading whole newspaper, read one article. It doesn’t matter if you shorten your me-time for these couple of days, as long as you preserve at least some of it.
Ask for help.
The most obvious, yet often the most difficult one. When we make our last-minute preparations, it is common for a lot of us to feel as if we screwed up by not having done things earlier. Hence — we now need to deal with it all ourselves. However, most of the times the truth is that we don’t — people around us see us struggling and they can understand that we may need their help. But it is our job to ask for this help.
Yes, it often requires vulnerability and finding courage to say: I cannot cope with this by myself. Can you help me?. It requires opening ourselves, sometimes admitting to have made a mistake.
And it is difficult for many of us, because we are still struggling with the I-am-not-good-enough thoughts, and asking for help seems like validating those thoughts. But hey — you can just treat it as yet another experiment. Next time you find yourself in a hectic last-minute preparation, stop for a moment and ask yourself:
What if I do things differently this time? What if I actually ask someone to help me so that I can take time out to rest and calm down?
Just try and see what happens.