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How to Beat the ‘Schedule Hijackers’

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Ever have a day like this? You stumble out of bed—early—and gulp a cup of coffee on your way to your desk. You are determined to get a jump on the day, because you have a LOT to accomplish. You finalized your to-do list last night, blocked out time on the calendar, and gathered all the supplies you’ll need. You’re feeling a teensy bit smug because the sun isn’t even up yet and you’re ready to dive into your first big task of the day.

And then…

The phone rings. Amid frantic ramblings and tears, you deduce a semi-serious crisis involving your (pick one or more) parents/children/neighbors/dog which needs your immediate attention. You stumble into clothes and out the door.

Three hours later, you pull into your driveway, wondering what just happened.

You drink more coffee, debate whether your hair can go another day without a wash, and lunge back into “work” mode. Surely, you can make up the lost time. Fingers on the keyboard, you gather your thoughts.

Wait. What’s that noise? It’s your phone’s reminder chirp. Doctor appointment? Now? Oiy. And off you go.

If you’ve had days, weeks, months like this, you’ve been attacked by the ‘schedule hijackers,’ as my son calls them. These are the people, appliances, and obligations that storm our schedule and grab control of our carefully laid plans.

We can’t completely eliminate these scoundrels–nor would we want to, especially if they’re dearly loved–but here’s how to keep them from snatching control of your life.

Be realistic. I’m a die-hard list-maker. My husband says my daily to-do list would keep a team of four busy for a week. When I finally plugged all those to-do items into time slots on a calendar, I realized (gasp) he was right. I had to re-think what’s reasonable.

Be flexible. Interruptions, also called “life,” happen to all of us. In his July e-zine, author Randy Ingermanson suggested writing a weekly plan first, then a daily one, so we can more readily adapt to the inevitable interruptions. Even if a few days go awry, at the end of the week, we’ll still have accomplished the most important things.

Be ruthless, sort of. I screen calls during the day, keep the garage door shut so it looks like I’m not home, and hide in my office. Sometimes, I hide at the library, too. Whatever it takes to carve out the time I need to get words on paper.

Be smart. I have learned to schedule all appointments as late in the day as possible. That gives me a deadline, which forces me to dive into my to-do list early and efficiently. And if the appointment runs late (don’t they always?), I won’t get as frustrated, since I already tackled my most important work.

Be firm. Learn to say, “Thank you for thinking of me, but I just can’t add another thing to my schedule right now.”

We’ll never completely eliminate interruptions or live out our ideal schedule every day, but hopefully, these tools will help you stay on course.

I’d love to hear your strategies. How do you handle the ‘schedule hijackers’ in your life?

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    The Conversation

  1. Connie,

    I love this post. I am a big list maker when I have a lot to accomplish. I love being able to cross things off of it as I go.

    I think the most important thing you hit on is to be flexible. We can plan, plan, plan, but when something unexpected comes up, we just have to go with it. My RWA group calls these things ‘life intrusions’. They happen to all of us!

    I make use of some of your strategies: check the caller ID on the phone before answering…99% of the time it can go to voicemail, don’t answer the doorbell. My biggest time-interrupter is checking things on the computer: e-mails, blogs, web-sites, Facebook. I set myself a time limit, and stick to it. I also don’t have an internet connection on my laptop. That way, it’s soley a writing tool and I can’t get distracted.

    • Connie Mann says:

      ‘Life intrusions.” I like that term! Oh yeah, they happen to all of us, at the worst possible times. Dealing with them is the key. 🙂

      Like you, I get sucked into online distractions, too . Thanks for some great suggestions on taming those!

      So glad you enjoyed the post!

  2. Wow, exactly what I needed to read today since I’ve been having a week exactly like this! After two weeks of summer vacation my two boys (ages 9 and 12) began a summer camp for a few hours each day this week. I guess my grin was a little too wide, my step a little too light since fate couldn’t resist trying to interfere, LOL.

    My strategies are simple: 1) lie (don’t answer the home phone, and then when the caller rings your cell say you’re not home and can’t talk right now) and 2) hide (pretend I’m not home, regardless of who is at the door).

    This works with everyone but my mother who upon hearing my cell go to voice mail, or me not answering the door usually assumes I’m lying dead in a gutter somewhere LOL– but if I answer her and lie it’s even worse (“umm, no mom, I’m not home, I’m at the grocery store.” Which leads to “Oh well as long as you’re there, can you pick me up some milk??”) Ugh. Now I have to make a run for the store and go to my mom’s, too LOL)

    By far my best strategy is just keeping my mouth shut. Don’t tell anyone–not even my hubby!– that I’m going to have some down time, otherwise, it will get planned for me LOL.

  3. Leslie Santamaria says:

    Great post, Connie! One of my best strategies is the sign you gave me for my office door: “Artist at Work. Please Do Not Disturb. (Exceptions: Fire, Flood, and Blood).” When my family sees that hanging from the doorknob, they know I mean business. Now I just need to stop checking email… 🙂