How to Budget Time for the Unexpected

plan for the unexpected

How often do you start your day with a plan and great expectations, only to have it foiled by the arrival of the Unexpected? 

Client emergencies, urgent work, unplanned meetings, other people leaning on us: these things consistently find a way to insert themselves into our day, yet we're still surprised when they arrive and disappointed that they've interrupted our plans. 

When the Unexpected shows up, it’s challenging from both a scheduling and a mindset perspective. Not only do we have to account for work and time that we didn’t budget for, but more importantly we have to get over the poor mindset the Unexpected puts us in. 

So what do we do about it?

Instead of meticulously filling your day from start to finish with things to do, build chunks of time into your schedule that are reserved for things you can't currently account for, but that you can logically say are going to happen based on experience.

For example, schedule a 1- or 2-hour slot of time (treat it the same way you would treat a client appointment or a court appearance) that’s dedicated to dealing with overflow work or meetings. Schedule a time block on your calendar called "The Unexpected" from 1pm to 2:30pm everyday. This practice management trick will give you the physical space to deal with what you can't account for at 9am. 

MOST IMPORTANTLY: When the Unexpected arrives, it's less of a blow to our mindset because we’re already expecting it and have planned for it—so it’s not a surprise, we’re not as frustrated, and our expectations about how the day would go aren’t completely upended.

AND, if we’ve blocked off time for the Unexpected but it never shows up, then we feel like we just found a few hours of free time. It’s like that meeting or hearing that you’ve been dreading to go to that gets cancelled at the last minute. It’s found time, and can be a great mindset shift.

Build chunks of time into your schedule that are reserved for the things you can't current account for, but that you can logically say are going to happen based on experience.

HERE'S THE BOTTOM LINE: the key to dealing with the Unexpected is as much about managing your expectations as it is about time management. If you don't fill your time cup at the start of the day, you're less likely to have it overflowing at the end.