A plan for the spur-of-moment and flexibility challenged

A plan for the spur-of-moment and flexibility challenged

“I love it when a plan comes together.” A character on a television show called the “A Team” used to repeat that line regularly. I agree whole heartedly. I love to create a plan, implement it and see it go smoothly through to completion.

As you may have guessed, that means flexibility and spur-of-the-moment action come less naturally to me. Consequently, I have had to adopt some strategies to make flexibility part of my life.

To start, it helps to accept things rarely go exactly as planned, even when the event is a big one and has been planned for months. Think weddings.

At our wedding the pastor’s phone started ringing in the middle of the ceremony. Because it was a summer wedding, I had made sure the church and reception hall had good air-conditioning. Unfortunately, on the day we married, it wasn’t working in the bride’s waiting area.

As a bride’s maid in my cousin’s wedding, I was among those trying to help when it was discovered the bride’s shoes had been accidentally left at the store. She had planned to wear flats, and her dress hit the floor, so she just went down the aisle in her socks.

Now I tell people planning weddings that the mix-ups just make good stories. The most important thing is the couple winds up happily married.

Realize that no matter how much you plan or prepare, some unexpected things will likely occur.

Allow for interruptions. A course I took when I worked as a product manager suggested calculating your interruption factor and adjusting your to-do list accordingly. For example, if I had and interruption factor of two, I could expect to get four hours of work done in an eight-hour day.

With three often full phone lines and people waiting outside my office to speak with me, I often didn’t do that well. But factoring in the time and setting realistic expectations relieved considerable stress and frustration. I also, eventually, shared a wonderful secretary that guarded my time so I could focus occasionally.

Although I learned the interruption factor in an office, I found it works great when you have young children in the house. What might have taken 20 minutes before may take 60 as you stop to attend to little ones.

Expect and enjoy the times they need your attention. By doing so, you’ll both be happier and less frustrated.

If you need some concentrated time, work it into your regular schedule and teach children what is and is not OK to interrupt you about. Make sure they know what they can and cannot do while you have some dedicated time. They may learn to enjoy the lack of intrusion themselves. My son often used such times to build elaborate things out of paper-towel rolls and construction paper.

Other than children, consider the necessity of the interruption. Are you causing it yourself? Do you unnecessarily check email or social media? Could you shut your phone off or set it to only allow certain numbers to call through?

If you find you are flexibility challenged like me, think about how you can schedule the unexpected into your plan. You’ll satisfy your need to plan and acknowledge the realities of life.

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