Time Management Monday: What to do when your day goes off the rails

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There you are, minding your own business and getting on with your planned-for-productivity day when all of a sudden, bam. Something unexpected comes up and suddenly there goes your carefully crafted plan. Do you have to scrap it and start all over? Not necessarily. Here’s how to get your day back on the rails.

To recover from minor unexpected things, be prepared before they happen:

1) First of all, it helps a lot if you’re not already operating in crisis mode. Make sure you don’t let non-urgent tasks become urgent by taking care of them regularly.

2) Similarly, do things ahead of time like making sure your medicine cabinet is stocked and necessary items are handy to avoid a crisis.

3) Avoid scheduling every minute of your day because unexpected things will inevitably come up. Pad your schedule to allow for some wiggle-room in your day.

4) Don’t start the day with a huge task list. List your MITs (Most Important Things) that absolutely must be done today or else the roof will fall down. You can always add more tasks if you get those done.

With the above strategies, you can cope with those things that come up during the day without causing a calamity.

If your day is seriously blown by something big, like a sick day (for yourself or your child), a major work project suddenly dropped in your lap, or other big sudden event, here’s help:

1) Now is the time for serious prioritization. Clear everything off your list that isn’t absolutely necessary. Anything that can possibly be done tomorrow (or another day) gets shunted off.

2) Ask for help/ delegate to friends, family members or coworkers (as appropriate). Now is not the time to remain stoic and carry on. Call in the cavalry so you can continue to function.

3) Inform folks that you might not be as accessible as you usually are. Put auto-replies on your emails, do a quick voicemail message that you might not get to phone them back until another day, post a message on your social media that you’re too busy putting out fires right now to communicate. When people know not to expect immediate replies, you’ll be free to take care of business.

What are your tips for getting a derailed day back on track?


3 thoughts on “Time Management Monday: What to do when your day goes off the rails

  1. I am late to the party, but if I try to do traditional planning my day never, and I mean never, stays on the rails. At work or at home either one. So I do a form of “loose” weekly to do list and any actual appointments (always subject to change). My personal planner used to be a Paperblanks but they stopped making the “verso” format so for personal I use a Midori with a “week plus memo” planner. My work planner is the Space 24, which is also week plus notes.

  2. The biggest thing for me is do things as I go along. I have several reports I’m required to run and write a response to what I find each month. The task is typically sent out and we get two weeks to do it, but it can be time consuming if a lot of research is required for anything on it. Bad if a week goes crazy.

    Instead, I run the report each week instead of waiting until I get the tasking. Then I can do the research and write the response in the time it takes. By doing this, I’m actually 2 months ahead of the tasking. So when it pops up, I just copy and paste for the dates required, and it’s ready to go.

  3. With Loki’s epilepsy diagnosis last week, things really went crazy. Calls two or three times a week from school about seizures, some requiring me to drive there.

    I powered through, only doing my MUST DO column. It worked, but I am paying this week!

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