No matter how organized you are, life will throw you a curveball.
It could be anything: the weather, a traffic jam, a medical emergency, a PR crisis.
No matter the situation, these unplanned occurrences need to be dealt with immediately.
How can you manage them effectively without causing too much harm to your goals, reputation, or schedule?
Let’s say you’re on track for an app launch next week and a hurricane wipes out your primary servers.
What do you need to do to meet your deadline?
If you have a meeting with potential investors, but find yourself stuck in traffic, how will you make a good impression—and still stand a chance of earning their investment?
At Calendar, I’ve spent extra time preparing the team on how to respond to challenges and emergencies.
I want them to handle whatever comes their way without complete panic.
Here are five strategies for dealing with unexpected events, without completely trashing your schedule.
Facing the unexpected is already a stressful situation.
Just imagine if you didn’t have any sort of contingency plan.
Things could go from bad to DEFCON 1—fast!
While you can’t prepare for everything, you should carve out time to draw up and review an emergency plan.
Start by reflecting on what unexpected issues you’ve had to address in the past.
Look at common problems your competitors have overcome.
Review information about your area’s weather, natural disasters, and economic state—and repeat this for the various places where you do business.
Harness the power of big data and machine learning to help identify your Achilles heel.
This won’t predict every scenario, but it can help you determine the crises you’re more likely to encounter and make suggestions on which actions to take.
Now that you have a list of possible scenarios, create an action plan.
At a minimum, you should include clearly defined objectives and protocols, as well as a list of the responsibilities you and your team will take on.
For example, you may assign a trusted employee to serve as media spokesperson, while you’re dealing with clients.
Consider the strengths of each team member and department, and note what kind of training needs to take place beforehand.
Develop a Plan B and C.
Even with preparation, emergencies are stressful.
Removing the “frantic scrambling” element enables you to focus, and avoid the mistakes that could make matters worse.
Leave Blank Spaces in Your Calendar
A real emergency will require you to stop what you’re doing and address it immediately.
But some of the unexpected occurrences may be able to wait until you have availability.
Keeping space in your calendar gives you flexibility.
You accomplish that by leaving blocks of time without any commitments.
I know what you’re thinking.
“Must be nice not to be busy! I don’t have that kind of luxury.”
My rebuttal: Track your time for a couple of weeks to see how it’s being spent.
You may notice you’re losing an hour each day on email or social media, because you check the platforms every time you receive a notification or sit down at your desk.
If you can cut that down to once or twice a day, you may magically free up your schedule.
The point is: avoid packing your calendar to the brim.
Purposely block out time for nothing, and let it stand.
If an emergency crops up, you may be able to take care of it in that timeframe.
If you need to address the situation sooner, you have the option to move your schedule around.
And even if you aren’t faced with an issue or a crisis, you can still use that block of time to your advantage.
You could develop your emergency plan, train employees on new duties, finish that dull administrative task, or just catch your breath.
You can even start a list of “free time” tasks that you overlook when you’re busy.
This includes checking out competitors’ websites, reading up on industry trends, and setting up in-person meet-ups with people in your network.
Keep Everyone in the Loop
Of course, you need to keep all key stakeholders notified when there’s a crisis.
For minor inconveniences—like making an emergency visit to the dentist—you probably only have to let your assistant know, who can then inform other people accordingly.
For a full-blown crisis, all your employees, customers, partners, and suppliers need to hear from you, so you can stay ahead of the rumor mill.
If people don’t find out from you, they—or others who may not have your best interests in mind—will fill in the gaps.
That can lead to additional time spent correcting information, clarifying objectives, and getting your emergency plan in motion.
Communicating early (and as often as needed) is a great way to preserve or help restore your reputation.
Use Automation Wisely
I love automation.
It’s made my life easier.
It can also come in handy during the unexpected.
For example, you could create an out-of-office message for your email and calendar, letting people know you’re currently unavailable and when to expect you back.
If you have to cancel a meeting or appointment, your scheduling software can send an automated message to the other party to reschedule the event.
On the flip side, depending on the crisis, you may want to turn off scheduled posts and ads.
These automated communications often only add fuel to the fire.
As a consequence, you could end up spending more time cleaning up the mess you’d inadvertently made.
If you know there’s a circumstance that may throw a wrench in your schedule, you need to act before it snowballs into something bigger.
Let’s say you come home from work feeling really sick.
But, you remind yourself, you need to make it in tomorrow because you’ve got an important lunch meeting.
You could play it safe that night, let the person know you’re under the weather, and need to reschedule.
If you don’t and you wake up feeling awful, you’ll be annoyed with yourself.
Because this gives the other person less time to prepare for a schedule change of her own.
If you show up sick to keep a commitment, the other person may not appreciate it.
And they might become reluctant to schedule another meeting with you.
The same holds true if there’s inclement weather that could wreak havoc with your morning commute.
Plan ahead in case you can’t leave the house.
Take your laptop and charger home.
Bring along any paperwork you need to review.
It’s always better to be safe than sorry.
Plus, it allows you to keep your calendars and timelines (mostly) on track.
Acting quickly also comes with a bonus benefit.
It prevents scheduling conflicts from building up.
If you wait too long to reschedule an event, your calendar—as well as the other person’s—will start to fill up with obligations.
This makes it more difficult to find an open slot.
Plan for Unexpected Emergencies
Unexpected situations are already stressful.
Planning ahead makes them a little more manageable.
More importantly, preparing will ensure you won’t completely ruin your schedule for the foreseeable future.
Emergency or not, you have things to do.
How do you handle unplanned situations? Please share your comments below.
Photo by Eric Rothermel on Unsplash