How to Stay (mostly) on Plan in a Busy Week

No plan survives contact with the enemy

We’ve all been there. The dreaded BUSY WEEK. How do you plan to cope when things seem to turn on you and your goals? This was one of those weeks for me, and here is my strategy for dealing with it.

Time and Circumstance

In theory, all I need is around six and a half hours per week to reach my weekly goal. Meeting my weekly goal subsequently means hitting my big year-long goal. This is an important part of the goal-achievement process. Smaller milestones apply constant pressure to work towards the goal. Checkpoints allow you to adjust your flow of efforts and identify ongoing obstacles.

Sometimes, just squeezing a couple hours out of a week to do something other than recover from life can be practically impossible. You get called into work. Guests visit from out of town. Despite your best efforts, you hit a patch of sour mood and overwhelm. It could be the week a big work event is occurs.

This week was all that for me.

My scheduled and unscheduled non-running obligations devoured my hours. Around that, I also faced the gloomy, wet weather. The specter of depression loomed over me as I felt overwhelmed, losing track, insignificant, and just generally tired. It was time to pull out the contingency plans.

Plan B: Breathe

The first thing to do, whenever you get stressed out, is to slow down and take a breath. If there are no actual flames or immediate danger involved, not matter how your goal or plan may feel like it is going up in flames, you have time. At least time enough to take a deep breath.

Slowing down and taking a couple of mindful, intentional deep breaths is the most fundamental of self-care. You pay attention to yourself and your body’s need for oxygen. When you do your body responds with a slowing heart rate and a lowering blood pressure.  This will allow you a chance to reassess and rationally consider your next action.

Plan C: Continue

If this is not the end, then this is not the time to stop. It is time to regroup, tweak the path to achieving and identify how to overcome the overwhelm. Even with little time, wet weather, and a ton of unexpected obstacles, this week I regrouped and identified moments of opportunity. It was not my ideal performance or conditions. But progress towards my goals, even in the face of adversity, is the best thing I could hope for.

If you find yourself short on resources to do all you were planning, fall back on your contingencies. Minimums, alternates, and side goals will all help you maintain momentum even when your main goal seems to be slipping away. By taking these small steps , you achieve concrete progress towards your goal. This push can help you move on and make it through the hardest, most constraining times. Continuing is something to take small celebrations and pride in.

Plan D: Decide

If you run into conflicting priorities, torn between obligations to differing goals, just decide. If we linger on a decision, like ‘Do I try to get six miles in today between now and dinner?’, we risk killing the opportunity with inaction.

I’m really bad at this sometimes. I’ll be faced with half a dozen project or entertainment options for a small window of free time. Sadly, what I find myself doing is idling. I’ll check social media, read irrelevant articles, play a vacant game of solitaire or with a random code toy while I ‘think’ on it. Then, when I look up, it is time to move on to the next obligation, or my window has shrunk so I return to ‘thinking’ with a newly revised list of options.

The is a death of a thousand paper-cuts and rates high as my personally most infuriating bad habits. The best thing to do is use a series of defaults, heuristics, and quick, quality decision tools to make better quality decisions faster. Or, more plainly, just decide and get on with it. Something. Anything!

If the decision is ‘Do I get up, or stay in bed?’ decide quickly. If you decide you need sleep more right now, it is to your benefit to make it quality sleep by making peace with the decision and resting. If you beat yourself up lounging for another hour over not getting up, then you’ve just wasted that hour neither resting nor waking up! Even a ‘wrong’ decision made in earnest commitment is likely to be a more productive lesson than inaction.


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