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What do you do when your day goes wonky?

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We all know how it feels to sit down with a plan for the day, only for something to pull the rug out from under our feet and throw everything into disarray. The annoyance, the frustration, the sinking feeling in the pit of your stomach when you realise that the lovely calm day you were hoping for just ain’t gonna happen.

A couple of weeks ago I had such a day. Our wifi decided to give up on us. That wouldn’t usually be a problem; there’s a lovely bistro around the corner that has wifi, tea and cake. But on this particular day my husband was out at work and I needed to stay in because we had someone coming to do some work on the house. And because the wifi had been playing up for a few weeks I’d used up all my mobile data. So I couldn’t even email my clients to let them know what was happening.

My brain started to fizz. My inner monologue was actually rather entertaining, flitting between panic, frustration, anger and elation at the prospect of having an enforced morning off. After considering all the options available to me (which I have to admit included an impromptu Netflix binge), I decided to sit down and respond to the interview questions I’d been sent by Desk Life Project. I ended up spending a lovely few hours writing in the peace and quiet, with no distractions to steal my focus. Yes, the next few days were a little busier than usual as I ran to catch up with myself, but in the grand scheme of things it really didn’t matter. I hadn’t received any emails that couldn’t wait a day, and I don’t think anyone actually noticed that I’d been offline. (*sob*)

And then there are all those times when I have a plan for my day, and in the middle of the morning someone asks for something to be done right away. In the old days I’d have said ‘ok’, got angry and resentful, huffed and puffed my way through whatever it was they’d asked me for and then felt irritable for the rest of the day as I tried to get back on track.

The way I’m wired means there’s always a danger of these unexpected requests throwing me off balance, but over the years I’ve learnt to respond rather than react.

Now, when something unexpected threatens to derail me, here’s what I do:

1) Consider whether the request is reasonable and genuinely urgent

2) Consider how long the unexpected task will take

3) Consider what else I have planned for the day. Is it possible to move things around a little without that having a detrimental effect on anything or anyone else? Are there any non-urgent tasks that could be delayed to make way for this new task?

(It also helps to remind myself that the person making the request is not setting out to ruin my day, they’ve simply asked a question!)

Once I’ve taken a moment to calmly ask myself those three things, I have two choices. I say yes or I say no. If ever I have to say no, it’s usually a ‘not now’ rather than a flat ‘no’. I look at my diary, figure out when I do have the time and ask whether that would be ok. It usually is.

If you often find yourself in this situation, could this more rational, less reactive approach work for you?

This leads me on to another piece of advice that I like to share with my clients:

Don’t plan the detail too far ahead.

Know what you need to get done over the space of a week or a month, but plan one day at a time. Just think about it: if you’ve diligently mapped out a whole week, what happens if things go a bit wonky on Tuesday? You have to rip up the original plan and start again. That’s not only creating extra work, it’s also likely to reinforce the feeling that you’ve failed in some way. It’s not just messed up your day, but thrown your plans off for the entire week. Planning one day at a time makes it so much easier to recalibrate when things take a turn for the unexpected.

And finally…

Once your wonky day is over, tidy up after it.

Put away anything that might dump you back into that negative headspace when you come back to your desk the next day.

Bad days are going to happen.

There’s nothing we can do to stop them, but we can choose how we respond. One bad day doesn’t have to turn into a bad week!


What about you? How do you respond when your day doesn’t go according to plan? Do you have to work hard to stay calm or do you take it all in your stride? Please share in the comments below – I always love to hear your thoughts. And of course, I’d love you to share this if you know anybody else that you think would find it useful.

Louise MillerComment