How to maintain control of your day in the face of chaos


There may be days when your life seems to include more chaos than control. You probably start the day with a plan in place. You want to ensure an effective day so you have taken the time to identify your key objectives. You are committed to focusing on these objectives and completing them when, all of a sudden, something unexpected pops up out of the blue. If you don’t know how to react in these situations, you are likely to become distracted. The new job/task becomes the focus of your attention and the well made plan flies out the window. At the end of the day, you are exhausted and you know that you have been busy. However, when you look back upon the day, you realise that you failed to achieve anything of great importance. Suddenly, it feels like a day wasted. What you need is some strategies to maintain control of your day.

It’s so easy to lose your cool in a scenario like this, especially if you felt poised to hit your targets to begin with. With so much happening, trying to maintain control of your day can be quite the challenge! And the worst part is that more and more days seem to end up this way. With the right strategies, you can handle anything which pops up, maintain control of your day, and complete your key objectives. Success is achieved one day at a time and each day that you achieve your key objectives is a step closer to your ultimate goals.

How can you maintain control of your day?

Although you can’t control the unexpected, these approaches will help you develop the coping skills to enable you to maintain control of your day:


  1. You have the skills and experience to conquer challenges

Everyone faces tough times and emergencies in their lives. One of the reasons that I enjoy reading biographies is that it enables me to see how successful people also struggled with the challenges of life. It humanises successful people whereas the modern media does its best to make these people seem infallible. All humans are fallible – we will make mistakes and have to navigate our way through challenging times.

The reality of life is that the majority of challenges that come your way do so because you have the knowledge and skills to successfully deal with them. Think about all of the work that comes your way on a daily basis. People seek you out because you have the expertise. Where you lack the expertise initially, you have the intelligence and resilience to use the challenges as an opportunity to grow. If you face one of these situations, try the following:

Remind yourself that you can handle unexpected situations.

Look back at what you’ve achieved so far and the obstacles you had to overcome in order to get what you wanted.

Meditate on how much stronger you’ll be when you get to the other end of the tunnel.

Take it in small bites until things settle down.


  1. If you can’t do it, say ‘No’ straight away

If you lack the necessary skills or you simply do not have the time to perform a particular job; you should say ‘No’ straight away. Your task list is precious and it must be defended. Items which you cannot complete should not reach your task list.

Other people may initially become a little upset when you tell them that you cannot do something. However, they will appreciate that you are honest and upfront about things, thus avoiding time wasting. This allows them to move on and find someone who can do the job. Of course, if you can recommend someone else for the job, this can help to make the rejection more palatable.

If you want to maintain control of your day, you must be able to say ‘No’ to tasks which you cannot do. Otherwise, you would be allowing others to control your day.


  1. Communicate early

There will be times when you realise that you have taken too much on and you cannot possibly keep all of the commitments that you have made. In this situation, you have 2 choices:

Ignore it, keep trying to do everything and break your commitments. This will lead to you upsetting a lot of people.

Accept the problem and communicate immediately with those who will be affected by the delays. This allows you to renegotiate the agreement and provide a more realistic deadline.

People will be a little disappointed when you tell them that you can no longer make an agreed deadline but when you communicate it early, their disappointment is outweighed by their appreciation for the fact that you let them know in good time. This allows them to deal with any potential issues on their end. In most cases, there will not be any major issue, as long as it is not a regular occurrence. By communicating early, you reduce the pressure on yourself and minimise the impact of any delays. This will help you to maintain control of your day and your schedule.


  1. Capture it and move on

When something unexpected pops up, there is a tendency to assume that it is an emergency. The person assigning the task to you may even claim that it is an emergency. However, you are the one who must decide the priorities of your work and, when you examine things based solely on importance; you will usually find that new tasks do not constitute an emergency.

Do not allow yourself to be distracted by what appears to be urgent. Unless it is an emergency, capture the task in your personal organisation system and get back to working on your priorities. If possible, give the other person a realistic projection of when you might be able to complete the task. If they are unhappy with this, you can invite them to try and find someone who can do it quicker.

Avoiding shiny new object syndrome and faux-emergencies is a critical to maintain control of your day. Other people’s emergencies should not automatically become your emergencies. Otherwise, another person’s failure to manage their time can soon become a barrier to your attempts to manage your time effectively.


  1. It’s not as bad as it seems

If you take a moment to assess the situation for what it truly is, you’ll realise that things are rarely as bad as they seem. As hectic as you think it is, it isn’t the worst that could befall you. When you accept setbacks or hectic situations as the temporary obstacle that they are, your coping skills will kick in. When you believe that you can overcome the situation, your creative mind sets to work and helps you to find a workable solution. While your brain actually thinks more clearly during crises, it is still best to avoid them. However, if you do hit a crisis, trust in yourself and you will find that your thinking and performance will experience a sudden improvement to help you find your way through the situation.


  1. Take five

When things get a little tough to deal with, there’s no harm in taking a time out. Allowing yourself to break from the chaos and just breathe is a great way to maintain your cool. It seems counterintuitive to take time out when you are under pressure but the time out will enable you to break from the negative thinking. Once this occurs, your problem-solving skills will kick in, enabling you to find a way through. Consider the following:

A break from all the craziness helps to put things back into perspective so you can renew your focus on the goals at hand.

Breathing is very beneficial because it helps to relax the muscles and ease your tension.

A short walk is a great alternative for breaking the cycle of negativity, clearing the negativity from my mind and, allowing my problem-solving skills to start working on the problem.


  1. Drink lots of water

Water has more benefits that you would think! In the midst of a hectic schedule, drinking water cools you down physically and also calms your spirit and nerves. Keep some water nearby and take a drink whenever you notice that things have started to get a little crazy!

Water is also the most important ingredient for physical and mental performance. If you become dehydrated, your body and brain will struggle to perform to a high standard. Take regular water throughout the day to help you perform at the optimal level. Then if a problem arises, you will be able to take immediate action to prevent it escalating into a crisis.

Always remind yourself that, although there’s a lot of stuff happening that needs your attention, you can only tackle them one at a time. If you break down the madness into individual, attainable steps, you’ll find it much easier to push through the chaos. It is imperative that you maintain control of your day and focus on your most important tasks. To do this successfully, you must be able to deal with chaos and problems before they become a crisis. Knowing how to effectively tackle apparent emergencies, as and when they arise is critical if you are to maintain control of your day. When you do this, you will complete you most important tasks quicker, leading to more effective days, better results and the successful achievement of your goals.

Give yourself the chance to maintain control of your day in the face of chaos with the strategies outlined above.


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