OMG, What Do I Do First?

Stressed WomanThe first day of Fall is September 22. Work and school are back in full swing. Managing your to-dos effectively is essential to maximizing your productivity at home and work.

A while back I gave a presentation called “Stop Mumbling, Oops, I Forgot: How to Effectively Manage Your To-Dos.” With good intentions, people say they’ll do something but then forget because it wasn’t noted somewhere. People waiting for the promised “something” to be done are disappointed. At work, this is a particularly bad practice. A good practice is to make notes in your to-do list or calendar so tasks are not forgotten.

Even with the best systems, life sometimes gets in the way. As John Lennon said, “Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.”

Case in point: I received an email from an attendee the next day. “My kids need completely different school supplies than what we bought, my husband suddenly needs to take his car into the shop, mom’s aide left early without doing the grocery shopping and I have a report deadline at work tomorrow. How do I know what to do first?” Let’s call her Amy and her husband Michael.

I made these assumptions: The report will take Amy’s available time to complete, and Amy and Michael each need a car to get to work.

Following was my response:

First Amy should complete the report and meet the deadline. Her job provides needed income and benefits so she shouldn’t potentially put it at risk.

Second is Michael’s car. There are a few options. Have Michael find out if the auto shop provides a loaner car, ask someone to drive him from the shop to work (if convenient), call Uber/Lyft or wait for the car to be repaired.

Third comes food. Cereal, eggs and PB&J (or whatever is on hand) can fill bellies for a day. Other options include ordering food from a market with home delivery, ordering takeout with delivery, and asking the aide to get groceries the next time she’s on duty.

School supplies are fourth. Amy can order the supplies online with next-day delivery or pickup after work.

Takeaway tips:

  • Have the school provide in advance a list of needed supplies and buy them then.
  • Schedule noncancellable appointments with yourself to work on and complete reports and other important work well before the deadline to avoid last-minute crises.
  • Develop a Plan B to get to work in case of future car trouble or other emergency.
  • Join AAA or another roadside-assistance plan.
  • Keep the fridge and pantry stocked with essentials such as cereal, milk, bread, eggs, pasta, tuna, soup and frozen meals.

Having a contingency plan for emergency situations helps to make life less stressful. Who wouldn’t want a little less stress? Use the above example to figure out other urgent situations as they arise.

When life overwhelms you, stop and take a deep breath. Calmly figure out what needs to be done and by when. Prioritize by most-to-least important, then do what needs immediate attention. If you find crisis situations happen too often at home or work, maybe it’s time to hire a professional organizer. I can show you how to simply your life—once and for all!

 

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