Last week, my schedule was thrown a curve ball when my youngest daughter woke up with a fever Monday morning. While she normally goes to daycare while I work with clients or in my office, she was home for two days. Anyone with a busy 3 year old knows that there was not going to be much work accomplished during that time. While I won't say it was an easy week, my ability to handle my schedule and accomplish what I did within that week was due to the systems I have set up for myself and my business. Following are a few examples of how systems can help with a quick recovery when the unexpected happens.

1. A calendar system: Having a calendar and scheduling system that is easily accessible, somewhat flexible and works well for your needs is imperative when things are going well and when life causes a change in plans. Whether you use a paper or electronic calendar, make sure you have it available at the office and at home. I currently use a Blackberry that syncs with my Outlook calendar, which in turn syncs with a Google calendar.  I am able to access my calendars from my phone or any computer and only need to update in one place. In addition, I work as much as possible to leave some open times in my week. Normally these are reserved for office work, but when unexpected events occur, I can move appointments and clients to these open times (if we are fortunate enough that the change works for everyone).

2. A paperwork and filing system: I know that many of you have weeks, such as mine, when you just aren't able to spend the time on paper management and filing that you would have hoped. Having good systems in place for handling the mail and paper that comes in each day helps to reduce the piles that occur during these times. In addition, the "recovery effort" after a busy week will be much easier. My key paper management systems consist of an "in" box, a "to file" box, a tickler file system, hanging files for active and reference files, and iPEP, an online indexing and search system, to ensure I will be able to find what I need, when I need it.

3. Email: A full email inbox may be the single most annoying and stressful outcome of a busy week. While email often seems more overwhelming than paper, the same types of systems can apply to electronic information as to paper.  As much as possible, keep the junk mail and unneeded messages cleaned out each day. Look for those items that need to be dealt with immediately and either deal with them, delegate them or let the sender know when you will be able to respond. Be sure to flag the item, file it in an electronic action folder or schedule the action into your planner or tickler file so that it is not forgotten. When you finally have some time to go through the backlogged emails, try to attack them a little at a time. Determine your next action needed on each item and schedule it into your systems as appropriate. Reference emails should be filed in email folders or saved in electronic form on your hard drive. I love to use a feature in iPEP which allows me to forward emails to my workspace and delete them from my email inbox. With iPEP's search feature, I know I will be able to find it when I need it and can keep my email cleaner.

4. Daily clutter: In addition to the paper and email that pile up, additional clutter seems to accumulate in our homes during those extra-busy weeks. Once again, having systems that work for you and your family is key to getting back to normal in a shorter amount of time and with less stress.  One key system is having a place for everything -- you will be much less likely to find yourself shoving things in the spare room or in a closet, where it is unlikely you will be able to find it again when needed.

I was very thankful for the systems I had in place last week.  Unfortunately, I ended up catching my daughter's bug but am feeling more relaxed knowing things were back in order before another "unscheduled week" hit. Admittedly, a child home two days with a mild sickness is small in comparison to the larger curve balls that life can throw our way. Having good systems in place contributes even more to lower stress and a quicker recovery during these times.


To learn how Life Made Simple's productivity experts can help you with time management and other organization and productivity challenges, contact us today!

See Blog library at right for complete history