Put a Time Limit on Your Emergency to Reclaim Your Productive Balance

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In the past I’ve talked about how to manage a crisis effectively and overcome stress. I’ve even talked about ways to avoid crises by keeping your focus always on important things (instead of just the urgent ones). However, one aspect of dealing with a crisis is equally as important as any of these, but hasn’t been addressed yet: making the crisis end.

When you’re in a state of crisis, you often let various things fall out of your area of focus. You stop doing the dishes all the time, for example, and in dire need you may sacrifice non-work time (family time, detox time, etc.) to handle a very important deadline or problem. However, once you make this sacrifice, sometimes it’s hard to regain the balance you had before. Because of all the allowances you make during a crisis, you may find yourself in another crisis after that trying to make up for everything you failed to do while you were dealing with the first crisis.

That’s why it’s important that, once you enter crisis mode, you set a deadline for when you will stop making crisis-driven allowances. If your crisis project is due at the end of the month, only allow crisis-style time management until the first or second day of next month. (It would probably even be better if you stopped crisis mode the day before the deadline.) When you hit your crisis end date, stop justifying neglect of certain duties on the grounds that you’re in the middle of a crisis. Regain your balance; re-center your thoughts; review your priorities. Get back to normal.

This may mean that some things are going to fall through the cracks, but if your “normal” is set up so you’ve budgeted your time in a balanced fashion, it’s important to get back to that balance because you based it on the things that are most important to you. If you neglect that balance, you may immerse yourself so much in your work that you lose sight of other important things to you—friends, family, hobbies, etc.

My father is a CPA, so while I was growing up, tax season (Jan 1–April 15, for anyone who doesn’t know) was set aside as his crisis season. Allowances were made because it was tax season, and there was a lot of work to be done. Some years I hardly saw him during those four months; we joked that my mother was a “tax-season widow.” But the week after April 15 my father always took time away from work to reconnect with me and my siblings. Even though he had piles of work to catch up on (i.e. the type of work he did the rest of the year that had been put on hold to manage all his clients’ taxes), he kept his crisis to a deadline, re-centered himself, and then chipped away at the backlog at work afterwards. As his child, it was very important to me that after April 15th, I got to spend time with my dad again. It was important that he kept to that deadline.

Your crises may not last four months out of the year, but everyone has them. Your crisis may not even be occupation related—maybe your crisis is caused by volunteer work you do, a big festival for your hobby, house training a new puppy, or getting your kids to start a new school year. Whatever causes your crisis, if it is at all possible, set a deadline for it. After that deadline, you cannot use your crisis to excuse unbalanced behavior, and instead need to review and return to the balanced priorities you set for yourself in non-crisis times.

Image by Salvatore Vuono via FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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