Time leadership when nothing goes right

by | Sep 30, 2021 | Planning, Time Management

A few weeks ago, my family and I took a quick trip to Arizona.

It was amazing to see the Grand Canyon for the first time and catch up with some friends, but let me tell you – this trip was quite the pain.

A lot of unexpected things went wrong, from a water leak back home to a lost ID to me accidentally dumping our suitcase’s contents all over a parking lot.

I guess it shouldn’t have been surprising that our flight home was delayed by two hours after we had already spent five hours in the airport. Not fun with a toddler.

We didn’t get home until after midnight.

I knew that the best thing for my daughter would be to sleep in the next day and stay home from preschool. But I had a full slate of scheduled calls.

Thankfully, my husband was able to flex his work to watch her in the morning, sparing me from making do with a combination of Cocomelon and toddler background noise.

I was exhausted too, so I did what I always do when things don’t go as planned – I opened up my planner and moved things around for the rest of the week to create space for rest and a balanced schedule.

Planning is great, but we all know that life happens. Sometimes, minor inconveniences like a late flight lead to a day or two of changed plans. Other times, the world turns upside down on us.

What do we do then?

How do we stay out of survival mode?

Here are three things I do to adjust quickly when my best laid plans start to look a little silly:

Avoid trying to dig out.

For the longest time, I would play ‘catch-up’ after being sick. Whatever I had planned to do that week, I still tried to do. I think we’ve all been tempted to take our unfinished to-do list from the day before and just dump it on the next day, repeating the process over and over until by some miracle we maybe catch up.

But here’s the thing – if your world has shifted in some way, you’re paying a toll, whether physically or emotionally. Overloading your days will make recovery harder and also deprive you of any real sense of peace and rest during the time you’re taking away.

So, instead of digging out, move tasks around. Some things on the list for this week will need to move to next week, and that’s okay. Just cut the mountain down to size.

Cut down your expectations.

Once you’ve trimmed down the size of your task list, you may also need to take a look at what remains. We’ve talked about this before in the context of transitions, and it applies here too – look for ways you can lower your standards on some things. Maybe that PowerPoint doesn’t need to be quite as pretty, or your kids might get a bit more screen time for a few days, or your email responses can be more brief than you’re used to.

Here’s a quick tip – you can use Out of Office responses during times you’re not out of the office! You can simply set it up to say, “Thank you for reaching out. Due to a family emergency, my response time may be delayed. Thank you in advance for your patience – I will respond to your message as soon as I can.”

Remember the humanity of the people you’re working with.

This may be a strange tip, but in the early phases of my business, I honestly thought my clients were paying me to be perfect. When I got pregnant the first time, I was scared to tell them, thinking they would abandon ship once they knew I would have to take so much time off. Instead, they congratulated me and asked how they could support me.

I have been blown away over and over again by the goodness of my community. No person is perfect, but for the most part, we all want to support each other on this journey of entrepreneurship. If you’re experiencing a major transition or tragedy, imagine how you might respond if someone you’re working with was walking through the same thing. If you would extend grace to them and look for ways to help them out, you might just find that others will do the same for you.

Let people know that you need extra time on a deadline, need to reschedule a call, or will have less capacity available for things you were planning to do. Most of the time, there’s space to move things around so you can breathe a little easier.

Hopefully, you won’t need to use these tips very often. But I hope you know that even when life changes around you, you have what you need to pivot and move forward from a place of agency and rest instead of panic.