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Plan ahead all you like, but nothing makes up for adapting to disruption

Plan ahead all you like, but nothing makes up for adapting to disruption

One of the few things I remember from those dull high school assemblies is when we were taught about time management.

A meticulously prepared spreadsheet appeared onscreen, showing how the model student would organise their week.

This hypothetical student had planned out every spare moment to cater for violin practice, debating sessions, assignments and ‘relaxation time’. You couldn’t hope to have a more rigidly structured plan from Monday to Friday.

This, we were told, is the ideal way to plan out each week. By treating each day as an easily planned set of challenges, we would be as organised and efficient as possible.

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Quite frankly, this was total nonsense.

For school kids and working adults alike, the reality of everyday life does not fit into such a structured model.

You can get out of bed on a Monday expecting one thing and go to bed having experienced quite another. You never know when an unexpected crisis will pop up or a particular client will need a lot more of your time.

That’s not a complaint; it’s just reality. The very nature of work is that it’s unpredictable.

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You might be having a slow, dreary day when multiple spot fires pop up for you to put out.

When it comes to handling these problems, an expertly prepared timetable is utterly useless.

It may sound sensible to fine tune the specifics of each working week to your choosing, but that won’t help you deal with real-time challenges. It’s this skill that is arguably the most important, well ahead of the ability to plan ahead.

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All this being said, is it a complete waste of time to plan ahead? Of course not.

The difficulty is to find the balance between underpreparing and overpreparing. The former means you’re completely disorganised and have no idea what you’re doing at any time; the latter means you’re stuck in a rigid structure with no ability to deal with real-time disruption.

Neither are appealing, so you need to work out how you can remain adaptable to every challenge that comes your way without being so underdone that you make a mess of things.

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The ideal strategy for this is to keep things basic. If you’re experienced in your current position, dust up on all your skills regularly to ensure you stay reliable and dependable.

If it helps you, there’s also nothing wrong with sketching out a basic plan of what you want to achieve in a particular week. A to-do list of goals is a more realistic indicator of what you can knock over in a week than a timetable straight out of Year 12.

It’s never too late to start becoming organised, but it’s also not too late to relax a little and trust your instincts. We never know what’s coming next, but we can be as prepared as possible to deal with it.