You’re crunched for time. A crisis. How do you organize your time so you don’t burn out, get the right things done, and don’t end up sick at the end of it all. What’s the crisis? It’s whatever is crunching your time so that you feel like you can’t breathe.
For me, it was dad’s surgery along with my housemate being at home recuperating from surgery during the same time period. It could be that you’re moving your mother in to live with you. You might be moving homes or offices. Or you’re headed out on a trip,vacation or business, and you haven’t traveled in awhile. These are all typical crunch times and require we consider different means to organize our time and get things done.
The crisis takes over our emotions, our creative thinking (sometimes) and our rational thinking (sometimes). So if you have something going on now or may soon, read these ideas with your time crunch in mind.
Clear the decks: the week of surgery, I took no clients. I blocked out the time weeks ahead for my housemate’s surgery, but had to make calls and emails the day before dad’s surgery.
Clear one more thing than you think you really need to. Do we ever have extra time? No, so clear the decks with one more thing than you might typically. This will reduced your expectations of yourself and so your stress levels.
Decide whether to change your work email and voicemail messages. I did not, because I had my Blackberry with me. I thought I’d see if I could handle things. As the laws of attraction would have it, this turned out to be a “less busy” week. But you may want to set those away messages, so that you control whether to answer or not.
Technology: gotta love it at this time. My Blackberry was a lifesaver for communicating with my two brothers and my cousin. We texted status updates n dad, directions from the parking garage to his rooms, our own arrival status, and late night ideas and questions. We were in sync.
Divide up your big crisis into smaller chunks of time. For me, it was: let’s get through the day of diagnostics. Then the surgery. Then day one post-op. Then the week. To rehab. And to home … with still more phases to go, but smaller chunks of time/emotion was (a) easier to manage emotionally (b) easier to rejigger what had to get done at home and at work. So if you’re going on a trip, it might be the week before the trip, the week of the trip, the day before the trip, etc.
Deadlines: for work, I isolated the key deadlines I’d have to move. And I moved them right away, reaching out to explain why I needed more time. People were wonderful. I chipped away at some of the work, and with dad home now, I can take more time with each. I moved some items to a “revisit in November” list.
At home: I kept a “do later” list. Some cleaning tasks landed here. Outside work landed on this list. They seemed lower priority at the time. Later on, choose a weekend day and plow through it.
When I am going to leave on a trip, I keep a “must do before I leave list,” and a “if time,do before” list. The latter are ones which could be done while on a business trip or after the business/vacation.
Notice what time of day you’re best at creating, writing, thinking, or doing those small and easy items. Each day, figure out what you might fit it based on this. In one of the weeks, I had only one time to write, about an hour. Writing is a mental break, so I needed it but I hadn’t had the energy, emotion or focus to do it before then.Fit the work with your energy levels.
Keep a separate list of things to be done. Several of us kept a small binder with us all the time we were with dad (and I did this for my housemate, too). They’d think of something and ask you to do it. Or you discuss something for when they are home. Decisions you’ll want to discuss with them again. So on dad’s list it was things like: buy a new and faster computer, print off his email once home, get mom a new cell phone, empty the flower boxes, put up the storm windows, get the car out of the regional hospital parking lot where dad had left it.
We divided and conquered according to skills and geographic proximity. We also used our binders to keep track of the changing rooms as he got better. Phone numbers, people to call or email. One binder, just while the person is in the hospital. When I leave on vacation or on a business trip, I don’t keep a binder, but I keep one list, only about things to do for the trip. It stays on my kitchen household office desk so as I pass by, I can add items or take some off by doing them. Always with me or in sight.
Eat out. This is a way to make sure you eat during times of crisis. We stopped at the cafe on our way in and I think on our way out sometimes. Planning, shopping, meal prep and cleanup – when you add up the time this takes, it’s a good amount of time. For us, we spent money instead sometimes, as a trade for having more time. Quick stops, not long leisurely restaurant dinners.
Keep in mind, this was a short period of time, though. And when I leave on a trip, we eat out the night before. That also gives me a deadline of being ready before dinnertime instead of staying up ’til midnight getting ready!
Hire people to do things for you during this time, so you create more time for yourself. You might be surprised at how differently you value money versus your time when in a crisis.
Keep a separate bag for hospital trips. In it, I kept my binder/list, things to bring to dad, to mom or my brothers. People I know who have to make regular hospital trips (dialysis, chemo) keep a separate bag and it includes things to do while you wait. Drop items in when you think of them and you’ll be ready to go at the drop of a hat.
Know your own signals that you are becoming overwhelmed. Learn them. You’ll be no good to anyone if you don’t focus on self-care as well as the person in crisis.
Even if you can’t exercise for your regular full time, take a walk for 15 minutes. If you can’t meditate in the a.m., try it at night. You always grocery shop on Sundays but you’re at rehab that day. Go Monday nights temporarily.
Your life does need to get reorganized, temporarily. The sooner you let go of your regular day-to-day structure, the easier and less stressed you’ll be. And most importantly, you’ll be there, in the moment, doing what needs to be done.