Time management Monday: Work like a pessimist

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Let’s face it, procrastination is inherently optimistic. You put things off until some other time because you assume you will have some other time. But what if you didn’t?

I don’t mean that in a morbid way, just in a Life Happens way.

For example, say you’ve blocked out two hours tomorrow morning to finish a report/ project/ thing that is due at noon. You generously estimate it will take you an hour to finish, so two hours is more than enough. Right?

But what if something happened that morning that wiped out those two hours? Your morning commute becomes complicated due to weather, public transportation issues, car failure, etc. A very high priority item comes to you that you have to focus on that morning. Any of a million scenarios could happen.

That is a classic “don’t put it off until the last minute” situation. But how would you handle your schedule being derailed for longer periods of time? What if the work time you thought you had went away?

Life doesn’t always go the way you expect it to. Think of it as pessimism, or just preparedness. Here’s how to create backup plans in case things take a different turn.

What would you do if your schedule got wiped out for:

One day: What if your schedule for the entire day went out the window? For example what if your internet connection was not working at all, or you weren’t able to get to work. Or maybe something of higher priority came up that you had to focus on for the entire day.

In this situation, the obvious answer is to not put things off until the last minute. Stay ahead of your work so you don’t have to rely on those hours right before something is due.

Also, know your options. If your internet connection goes out, know other places where you can work. Have someone you can call to help you out if you need it. Make your schedule flexible enough that you can adapt to fluctuations like this.

One week: Say for example you or a family member got the flu. Everything on your schedule goes out the window for at least a week. What do you do?

Call in the cavalry. Life won’t go on hold for a week or two, so ask for help. If you normally drive your kids to or from after school activities, ask another parent whose kids are in the same activities if they can give yours a ride home. Have go-to people at work who can put out any fires while you are away. Delegate all crucial tasks. Low-priority items can wait until you are back to full capacity.

One month: Let’s say you have to get on a plane to help an ill family member, and you’ll be away for several weeks.

This is where organization and transparency are key. Someone needs to take care of your mail, pets, bills to pay, and general life.

Have a binder with information like: contacts for the vet, plumber, electrician, etc. ; information on how to pay bills that will be due during that time; family members’ routines and scheduled events, etc. If your spouse doesn’t normally do these things and will have to during your absence, it will be a lot easier for them to open a binder and have all the information they need there rather than you trying to text them details on who needs picked up where while you’re waiting to board your plane.

The same goes for work: have an easy-to-find folder where a coworker can access your information to contact clients and contractors, and anything else they might need to know to fill in for you while you are away.

Six months or more: What if suddenly you or your spouse were told you are being relocated for work, across the country or overseas. Or any other scenario where all the plans you thought you had for this year get wiped out.

This is where a flexible mindset becomes important. It’s great to have goals and plans, but don’t make them so set in stone that you can’t adapt to a major change.

Also, maintain an identity outside of whatever the main aspect of your life is. Whether it’s your job, a place, or something else, don’t tie your entire self image to that one thing. That way if the job goes away, or you have to move to a different place, you won’t feel like you are losing your whole identity.

What can you do to prepare for the unexpected, in the short term and longer term?

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