Sometimes, your boss or client will ask for a miracle, such as a deliverable before you're ready. Like many of us, you'll probably feel tempted to avoid conflict and nod agreement. Under pressure, this often feels like the easiest way through. But it's fraught with risk: you're risking your reputation, your relationship with your boss, client, and team, and maybe even your job.
Fortunately, there's a better way. Following these three steps will help you navigate, perform, and recuperate from a miracle...
1. Protest Before You Agree
It may seem like a good idea to quietly accept an impossible task out of deference to your boss or a desire to preserve the relationship with your client. But omissions can be dishonest, and in the long run you're probably not doing yourself or them any favors. Chances are, they simply don't understand the full extent of what they're asking for. If you take time now to respectfully protest and negotiate for more realistic expectations, you'll be protecting yourself, your team, and your future relationship with your boss or client.
Don't just say “no!” Say “okay, but here's what that will mean...” and walk the miracle-requester through the consequences of his or her request. If you decide, together, to proceed anyway...
2. Go All-In
Take a moment after your “protest meeting” to figure out how you are going to achieve the impossible. Do this individually as well as with your team. What aspects of your personal life are you going to rearrange / postpone? Have a conversation with the loved ones it will affect. When will you put in the extra hours? What percent-solutions can you realistically achieve? What special resources will you need outside of normal? List them out, take appropriate steps, get set.
Then GO. Do the best job you absolutely can. Exceed expectations. Knock it out of the park. Strive to make your product one you'd be proud to deliver, even under optimal conditions! It is in these moments that the epics of your career will be lived, the great stories made, the seeds of legend sown.
3. Get Away & Decompress
As soon as you possibly can after delivering your miracle, take a break from work. (Negotiating for this break, on behalf of yourself and your team, probably needs to be part of your “protest meeting”).
During your getaway, plan a mixture of physical activities and peaceful downtime. Sweating helps your body detox from physical stress; meditation and contemplation, or simply providing space for your thoughts to wander, helps your mind recover from its exertions. Don't mix recuperation time with office business! During this time, you should avoid thinking about work as much as you can, and the office should not be able to reach you by any means. Taking a hard break, even if it's just for a half a day, is crucial to bouncing back after performing a miracle.
The break shouldn't be solely “me time,” either: proactively involve your loved ones. They have flexed to make your miracle possible – written a blank check against the relational bank account. Now is the time to balance those books.
(And, if you're the boss or the client, don't hesitate to give time or even funds to facilitate this downtime. A little reinvestment in your people now will reap rich dividends in the future!)
How much time you take off probably won't be solely up to you. If you get half an hour off for every hour of overtime you put in, great! If that's not realistic or permissible, try to take off for a whole day; if you can't do that, at least take a morning for yourself and go in to the office after lunch. Insisting on fully-separated time & space to recover shields your people from burnout and enables them to put full focus and effort back into resuming regular work...
...and into delivering the next miracle, when the time comes.