In these days of being connected to work 24 hours a day with email and texts, it is easy to feel overwhelmed and behind. A while ago I accepted that I would always be behind. It was just a matter of how behind I was and what I was behind on that really mattered.
The zero inbox is a myth; as is the zero to do list. As soon as we answer one e-mail, another one comes in. As soon as we cross something off our to do list, another task occurs to us. Instead of trying to catch up, each day and each week I prioritize the projects I need to be working on.
Everyone and everything is fine now, but the last two weeks I was in the midst of a serious family emergency. It was my complete focus even though I had a full plate of client meetings, getting out two issues of this newsletter, and the two hour workshop last Thursday.
In the midst of the chaos I had to remind myself of my philosophy and really focus on what I had to get done and what I could do. I am sharing my coping strategy with you because unfortunately, we all have to deal with the unexpected. Whether tragedy with a loved one, being a little sick, or being really sick, real life intrudes on our work life.
Here’s how I handled it:
Decide Your Non-Negotiables
What are the things that absolutely have to get done? Are there ways you can make doing your non-negotiables easier temporarily? Any shortcuts you can take just this once? My non-negotiables were my newsletter and the workshop. I put off everything else.
Put Systems in Place
My Newsletter – Ironically, one of my projects next year is to become more systematic about how I produce content. Right now I do not write my newsletter ahead of time. I do have a long list of topics and ideas, some with rough outlines and reference materials. For the first newsletter I didn’t use any of them because I had gone to the ballet on Sunday and wanted to write about Peter Pan. I already had a rough outline. I researched the history of Peter Pan to distract myself while I was waiting for a phone call and wrote the article late at night when I couldn’t sleep. For the second newsletter, I used a list of movies about writing I had in my idea file.
Why didn’t I skip the newsletter once or twice? I made a commitment to myself that I would send out a newsletter once a week for 52 weeks. I’ve really been enjoying writing it and the conversations with all of you. I knew that skipping it would make me feel worse when I was already feeling badly. I also knew that an emergency may come up again and I wanted to know that I can still produce in hard circumstances.
The Workshop – Because September was such a busy month for me, luckily I had already outlined my workshop and finished 3/4 of my slide deck. What was left was the marketing side of things. Posting the link was an easy task. For each workshop I create handouts and a landing page where people go to download them. That took a little bit of time, but because I had done it so often before, I wasn’t having to learn any new skills so it wasn’t stressful.
I’m happy to report that the workshop was a big success. Thank you to those who came. I’ve gotten great feedback from the attendees and it went half an hour over because there were so many questions. I love teaching and I’m grateful I could have such a positive experience after a rough couple of weeks.
I rescheduled all of my clients letting them know then I had an emergency and I would be back with them in a week or so. I also told the workshop leader what was going on. She let me know that if something came up and I couldn’t make it, she had materials she could go over that night and I could speak the next month.
When you are upset and your life is in chaos, it is tempting just to disappear. As a professional, you must let your clients and coworkers know a little bit of what is happening so they can be understanding. You don’t have to explain in detail. Just tell everyone you will be back with them when you can. If I owe you an e-mail I apologize. I’m still getting caught up.
Recognition of Recovery
Once the emergency has passed and the adrenaline has dissipated, you’re going to be tired. It may take a while before you get your energy up and feel back on track. Be kind with yourself and recognize that you are in recovery. Again, communication is key. Let your coworkers know you still may not be operating at full speed. Include rest time in your schedule. For me I was already in the midst of a healing journey so this recovery is one more aspect of rebuilding. In fact, this situation has made me realize we may always be in some phase of recovery from something. And that is okay, as long as we still move forward in our life and creative goals.
Making Lemonade Out of Lemons
While the advice to look for the good in the bad experience can be incredibly annoying when you are suffering, there is truth there. I have decided to write about what happened to me and my family. I’m actually feeling excited about writing the story. It will be a while before I can share it with you because there is an ongoing investigation and I want to be able to talk about it from beginning to end. I might be becoming a true crime writer! Life is very strange.
I hope you never need an emergency plan for your work life, but I suggest that you put systems in place. They will help your workflow either way. And never be afraid to reach out and ask for help when things get tough.
This week’s newsletter is brought to you by my newest cartoon coffee cup.
Want more content like this? Click here to subscribe to my newsletter.