Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Acknowledging the Unexpected

What happened here? Not what was expected...

Once upon a time, long ago, I worked for a boss who struggled with time management. She took a class and worked with a time-management coach, and he advised that each person in the office keep a daily list of unexpected events. My coworkers and I started doing this right away, because we were stressed out and eager to work on the time-management challenges we were having.

We were really surprised to discover exactly how many unexpected things just 'popped up' during each day. A client would call with a problem, a salesperson would stop by unexpectedly with a new product line, our boss would suddenly remember a project that she needed finished ASAP, or the copier would jam.

Writing down these unexpected events on our To Do lists seemed to give us more power over the situation. We could compare the tasks that we had planned to do with the new task that was now staring at us in the face, and decide which task took higher priority.

Often the unexpected event took precedence over what we had been working on before (our office certainly wouldn't have been able to function if we didn't take the time to fix the jammed copier!) Instead of feeling discouraged at the end of the day because of ruined plans, we could read our lists and count the unexpected events towards our productivity for the day: I helped a client, learned about a new product, finished my boss's project, and fixed the paper jam in the copier.

I'm finding that this same strategy can be applied to homemaking: if I take the time to acknowledge the time I spend each day on unexpected events, and count them towards my productivity for the day, I feel more empowered and in control of how I spend my time each day. I cleaned up the broken glass before someone got hurt, I rescheduled our plans so that I could care for my sick child, I got the car inspected on the last day before the sticker expired and avoided a ticket.

I also apply this strategy to larger periods of time. For instance, I haven't spent much time and effort on keeping up with clutter in my house this year. I think it is important to acknowledge the events (some expected, some unexpected) that have required additional focus and that have shifted my priorities away from this project.

My sister-in-law died in December. My close friend died in January. I'm still helping to go through my close friend's home and possessions and cooking meals for her college-age son.

I completed three large projects for my volunteer work in February, April and May--and I'm working on several new projects now.

By the end of this month, we'll have taken 9 separate trips since December--4 of them unexpected to some degree, but all worthwhile time spent connecting with family, friends, and each other.

By acknowledging that all of these events are important and realizing that I don't regret the time or effort spent on any of them, I realize that I have good reasons for not focusing on the projects I hoped to focus on so far this year. I can release feeling of guilt and powerlessness, and refocus on my goals with a fresh, positive attitude.

With all that said, I am off to finish prepping my new consignment pile, and a nice large Goodwill donation is on the horizon, too.

This plan works for me. What unexpected events have occurred in your life that you need to acknowledge and release?

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