A great man once said (and I paraphrase) “Take my word for it. In the next three months, something unexpected is going to happen, and you are going to have to deal with. How well you deal with it will be a reflection of how prepared you are in terms of how you’re dealing with what you have on your plate now.”
He wasn’t predicting the future like some soothsayer. Furthermore, his intent was to tell everybody that anything could happen. He’d certainly be right more often than he is wrong. An event, hopefully not calamitous but which would require some positive action on your part, is en route to spoil your day.
What he wasn’t doing was addressing one reality of front-line policing life.
Something unexpected is, pretty much, the bread and butter of your day job. Never mind what might be “comin’ atcha” in your personal lives, you open every day with the likelihood that ‘an event’ is coming along to change your plans.
How do you deal with those challenges?
Think about it: when you started work as a police officer or staff member, everything was a challenge. When you began you learned to deal with things, initially by thinking hard about what to do and in what order. But as time passed and experience taught, you by-passed the ‘thinking’ and did everything that you had to do in the most effective and efficient way, in the right order, to get the outcome you expected.
Which is why I find it odd, occasionally, when people who have arrived at that level of competence in their working lives don’t notice that the same learning curve applies to their private lives, and therefore fail to spend their time planning their activities to the same degree they do their work. They don’t use the time and experience of just ‘being’ as a means to inform themselves how to prepare so that emergencies have a lesser impact on normality than they do on the unprepared mind.
I plan my week, every week. By accident as much as by design, my tasks are usually completed by lunchtime (yes, I AM lucky), which means my afternoons tend to be free to cope with the unexpected, the added-on, the challenging. But I am not so bound by my plans that I can’t work around or even drop them when something comes up that deserves more attention than ‘the plan’.
But here’s the thing: A To-Do List is not a Plan, as valuable as it is when compared to having no list at all. The best that you can hope for from a To-Do List is the knowledge that, having put everything on it, you won’t forget it needs doing. Of course, it will always need doing as long as it remains on the list. It hasn’t been planned.
You have to put the tasks on your list into a ‘proper’ plan, OR have a system for just deciding when, in the moment, you can do something off that list because you have a moment to spare in which to do it.
And for many things on such a list, you also need to know HOW to do it in the most efficient way possible, so that it doesn’t take longer than planned. That’s where a weekly plan can be of benefit. If you decide that, next Thursday, you are attending a training course, then you can add any pre-course necessities to Tuesday’s calendar and that day’s task list. Not only to an A4 sheet containing a random To-Do List – you’ll see that on Thursday morning just in time to say “Oops.”
And ALL of that advice supports my contention that you can cope with the unexpected because if you learn and apply what I teach then you’ve already chosen when and where and how you are going to deal with the expectations that already exist on your Plan. No more thought is required for those things, which means your mind is now empty. Which in turn means you can now use the spare mind-space for dealing with the unexpected, and do so with as much focus as is needed.
You can learn to cope with any personal emergency just like you did any work ‘emergency’: List what needs to be done, plan when and how to do it, and get it out of the way as soon as you can.