Learn about when personal schedules conflict with you work schedule, and how to reconcile the two.
- Let's say that you've followed all my recommendations in the course up to this point. You've established a schedule of when you're going to focus on your most valuable activities, of when your start and stop time is, of when you're going to take breaks, and it works perfectly for you most of the time, except when it doesn't. What if work requires you to do something that breaks the schedule? Perhaps they require you to attend a meeting at a time that is inconvenient or that is outside of the schedule you've created? How should you handle that? The first is to simply expect it.
So much of our happiness in work and in life depends on if our expectations are met or exceeded. Part of working from home is that you must expect that sometimes your schedule will collide with the home office. Just having that expectation that it will happen perhaps once a week or once every two weeks will go a long way toward helping you feel okay with it. Next, as part of that expectation, you're going to want to have buffer time in your schedule.
I talk about this in pretty much every course I have on time management. Buffer time is such a valuable principle in our information overloaded world. Because interruptions happen frequently and changes occur regularly, we cannot have our schedule on a razor's edge with no room for error. In an average eight-hour work day you want to have about an hour and a half of unscheduled time that gives you some flexibility when these inevitable interruptions occur.
Next, as much as possible, when unexpected changes happen, move but don't remove. For example, let's say that you have your most valuable activity time scheduled for Thursday afternoon from two to four. At the last moment, work requires you to meet during that time. If you've built buffer time into your day, then you can move the MVA in your schedule. You might move it to the next day or the day after, but you do not remove it from your schedule.
In this way, you can take care of the most valuable things and yet remain flexible for the requirements of your employer. Finally, after a schedule collision like this occurs, ask yourself, was this an incident or was it a pattern? In general, ignore incidents and process patterns. What does that mean? If something happens just one time, it means it's not that big of a deal. It may never happen again.
Statistically speaking, random stuff is just likely to happen in your life. Unless it's a life-threatening or truly serious issue, it's not worth your time and attention to focus on trying to solve it. Ignore it. But, if we see this happen multiple times, for instance, you're regularly getting interrupted at a particular time from work, then we must process it. As I detail in Time Management Fundamentals, send yourself an email or write yourself a note to take action on solving this recurring problem.
Later, when you come across that note, process it. Ask yourself, what's the next step to making this change? When can I make that change occur? For example, if every Thursday at 3 o'clock your manager has the habit of calling an emergency meeting because of Friday's due dates, then perhaps you should leave that space available, or even better, ask your manager what you can do to help the team get ahead of schedule in the future.
Some of the most successful people I know are highly sensitive to negative patterns happening in their day. When they see something happening over and over, they don't let it continue to occur, but instead they address it and take responsibility for making it better. With just a little bit of preparation, and by cultivating stronger awareness, conflicts between work and personal schedules can start to happen less often and you can maintain control of your day.
- Creating a productive environment
- Creating a balanced schedule
- Using virtual meetings
- Staying responsive
- Balancing roles as a parent, caregiver, and professional
- Managing interruptions and emergencies at home