What to do when the unexpected happens.
We’ve all had them. You know what I’m talking about–the days we have planned just so. Then, an item we didn’t know we needed is nowhere to be found. Or an unexpected call comes in and we have to change our plans.
All hell breaks loose, right?
That’s how my day was yesterday. Or rather, that’s how it could have been. That’s how it would’ve been if I had not already realized that I get easily overwhelmed when my day is too scheduled for my comfort.
THE UNEXPECTED TIME CRUNCH
My plan yesterday was to go to my local yarn store and knit all day, and then go home to chat on the phone with a local professional organizer. I wanted to pick her brain about starting a new career in the organizing field.
But then I realized I didn’t have a crucial item I needed to knit for the day. As if that weren’t bad enough, I’d forgotten I’d told Dad I would stop by in the afternoon. A brief wave of panic set in.
ON-THE-SPOT TIME MANAGEMENT
When this happens, I ask myself two crucial questions:
- What’s important for me today?
- What can I release?
The knitting class was already paid for, so I needed to attend to that. It meant purchasing an item I needed before the 10:30 class time.
My father is 85 and very independent and maintaining a relationship with him is important, so I needed to attend to him.
The phone call to the organizer can be potentially life-changing, so I needed to attend to it.
WHAT CAN GO?
As soon as I figured out what was non-negotiable (the class, my dad, and the phone call) what was unimportant became self-evident–as beneficial as it might be for me to knit beyond the ninety-minute class time, it was not crucial. It had to go.
HOW TO MOVE FROM THE PROBLEM TOWARD THE SOLUTION
Still, I needed to make an unexpected trip to the store. How can I accomplish this without feeling harried to get to class? I like to use two simple time management strategies–buffering and boundaries.
Time buffering is nothing more than creating space in the day for the unexpected. It can be as simple as leaving for work 5 minutes earlier than the usual time in case you run into traffic, or as challenging as getting up an hour earlier than you do now. The important thing is that you decide what’s best for you.
For me, being dressed, fed and having the bed made by 8 AM is pretty important, even on my days off. So, when I found out I needed to get to a craft store before class, I was ready. I was able to buy what I needed and still be the first one to show up.
Time buffering has worked amazingly in my life. I’m never late for work, even on days when I have to go through a bottleneck of cars.
I’m not yelling for a red light to hurry up and turn green! Thus my stress level is turned down several notches. Who doesn’t want that?
Setting a time boundary around a task or an event can not only help prioritize your day, but can also keep relationships healthy. Sometimes, we even need to set time boundaries around difficult people. This is another way of creating space, or breathing room, in the day.
Yesterday, I had to set a time boundary around my knitting so that I could visit with my father. I had to set a time boundary on my visit to dad so that I could devote the proper time and attention needed for the phone call to the professional organizer. See how this works? There’s space to get the important things done; space for the unexpected; space to breathe.
Who doesn’t want that?
Have a great time-management tip? We want to know! Share it in the comments.