Don’t Crash and Burn

Prepare for Emergencies to Keep Your Day on the Road to Success

Many business owners, executives and entrepreneurs have asked me over the years, “Leslie, what do I do when my day goes upside-down and I have to throw my plans out the window?”

Well, I think they already know the answer to this. It’s easy: compare the new, urgent item with what you had already planned to do that day and decide what is more important. What activity has greater value to your bottom line, to your customer or to your business?

If you decide that your new issue is a true emergency, then that’s easy: you do whatcha gotta do. But I don’t think that’s what people have been asking me all these years when they ask that question.

I think what people mean to ask is, “Leslie, when I have to deal with emergencies, how do I handle those plus my other priorities at the same time?”

And the answer to that question is you have to choose. You can’t do it all. Surprise, surprise. BUT… the stronger your systems and people around you, the more in control of your day you will be. So being ready for anything is key.

When you’re already in the driver’s seat of your day (organized, productive, nothing’s backed up, etc…), your state of mind will be stable, clear and steady. This is where you always want to be. No drama necessary. You will be all-seeing and all-knowing. An emergency won’t shake you or your sense of calm – and it won’t bring your day to a screeching halt. You can just rely on your systems and your people and you’ll know exactly where to go, who to turn to and what to do in an instant.

Here are 3 steps you can take now to be better prepared for the unexpected later:

1. Find it fast

Get organized now, before an emergency occurs. Be able to find everything in your office in seconds. That includes papers, files, binders, contact information and more. Know what you have, how it’s useful to you and where it is is so important because when you need it, it should be there. You don’t want to waste time looking for it when you’re in a hurry or in the midst of an emergency.

2. Build it up

Document and schedule every time commitment you’ve made – then protect FLEX time on your calendar. Take the time to build ONE calendar with all of your commitments: meetings, trips, doctor’s appointments, personal plans, children’s appointments, etc. Your calendar is NOT for tasks (with few exceptions for tasks or projects that take longer than ½ hour), so don’t put tasks there.
A prepared calendar is one that is not overbooked. Flexible time scheduled into your calendar will allow you to be better prepared for the unforeseen and if there are no catastrophes, then use that time to focus on your tasks, or process e-mail, work on special projects and get ahead.

3. Write it down

Document every task, reminder and to-do in a complete (not partial) task list. An electronic task list of course. It should include everything you need to take action on: responsibilities, actions, next steps and reminders for later action.
Having this reliable Task list means you can turn to it at any moment and know that it reflects what you plan to do today, this week and into the future. It means you’re not looking around your office, continually reviewing files, papers, pads, e-mail or random post-it notes to see what you need to do. It’s all on that list. Seriously.

When all your systems are complete and you actually trust them and you actually use them, you can do the following when an emergency rears its ugly head: Hesitate, Delegate or Eliminate.

Hesitate the things that can wait

You may already have pushed certain tasks aside, but if you’ve made a commitment and now it’s competing with this emergency, you may feel you can’t turn your back on either one. That’s when having flex time in your schedule will help. Something’s got to give.

Delegate to others the things they can do

Do you have people around you who are in a position to handle this “emergency” or are you the only one who can take care of this? If you are the only one to handle the emergency, then can your people take something else off your plate?

Eliminate the things that don’t need to be done at all

Be selective here. Think seriously about all the things you really don’t have to do. Your time is precious. Don’t waste it on activities that don’t generate value, benefit or revenue!

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