How to Cope with a Time Critical Job

Working in an environment where your presence on the dot of a certain time is essential and where your services and deliverables must be provided without fail at a certain time can create a difficult work environment for some personalities. While there are people who enjoy the routine and certainty of exact times, there are others who find this constricting, nerve-wracking and too pressured. If you are in the latter category, this article will help with some suggestions.


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    Be early. Think about arriving 10 minutes before the time that you have to start work. Although this may sound contrary to what a person hating exact start times wants, it is a mind-trick to enable you to arrive on time every time, as well as giving you some shuffle space for settling in rather than feeling rushed and grumpy as you start the day or shift. If this means catching an earlier bus, train or riding the bike in earlier than would normally get you there just on the dot, do it. It will relieve a lot of pressure to begin the work-time in a more leisurely frame of mind.
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    Be organized. Time critical work requires very good organization skills. Keep yourself organized using a diary or to-do lists. If you work in an office environment, also keep all your papers in good order so that you know exactly where anything is if it is needed at a moment's notice. Same for anyone working with tools of the trade - keep all in its place and always return to the same spot when you have finished with it. Not being able to find things is a huge source of stress and potential delay.
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    Ask about back-up. One thing that is an enormous source of concern to many workers is their indispensability - not from a non-firing point of view (we all risk that) - but from the necessity for you to be the person to open the shop, chair the meeting, man the air traffic control tower, watch the kids, observe the auditors, save a life, etc. Find out how to contact and activate back-up for when things go wrong and put their phone details into a speed dial on your cell phone. Where you know delays are likely, tee up substitutes in advance rather than crossing your fingers that the delays won't eventuate. Consider such things as childcare responsibilities, heavy traffic due to local roadworks, personal problems, transportation breakdowns, accidentally sleeping in etc. These are all reasons, some more valid than others, as to why you need security in knowing you have back-up on occasion.
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    Work as a team. Time critical environments require good team cooperation and inter-reliance. If your workplace lacks this, start building it by letting others know you are there for them, that you respect their role and work and that you will help out wherever needed. Be the team person example and create that team environment around you. This will always help time critical work to be less stressful, as everyone is expected to pitch in and more people are across the issues, necessities, roles and expectations than just you or the head boss.
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    Accept your limitations. Some people are not made to work in time critical environments. Maybe you always dreamed of being a certain something but you didn't realize it involved precise starting times or that the work would always be expected to be turned around quickly. Not being able to have more fluid starting times is really problematic for very creative types who prefer unstructured work environments. And the trade-off for quick turnaround times is something some people cannot abide - less perfect or less comprehensive outcomes. Perfectionists and those with high expectations of how their work reflects on them will have great difficulties with time-pressured environments. It is not a bad personal reflection; what it does mean is that you need to find an environment more suited to your more relaxed and slow-paced work skills within your field of interest. It is possible; you just need to hunt around a bit more, and perhaps lower your expectations of being at the more obvious end of things.


  • Vacation time and leave days are very important for time critical jobs. Take your leave - it enables you to totally unwind and remember what unstructured time feels like. Which is good for all of us. Some people enjoy structured time too much, to the point of not knowing what to do with themselves outside of structured time. Too much structure and too little are both bad extremes for a contented life.

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Categories: Job Strategies