Surviving the Unexpected Time Consumers

It’s happened to you. You had meetings planned, objectives to complete, and even a few “I hope to get to” projects in your head. You had scheduled them neatly on your calendar.

Then it happens.

Something outside your control enters your life, and messes with your best intentions. Your day is now subject to a sky-is-falling mentality.

There is hope when navigating around these sky falling occurrences

Whether it’s a root canal, a funeral you must preach, your kid getting expelled, or a staff member who makes a really bad choice, we’re all faced with sky-falling, day-killing, time-eating, occurrences.

But those who steward their time well can encounter these moments and still manage them because they’ve set sky-falling mitigations in place. Such as…

Don’t schedule any day to 100%

If your schedule doesn’t have any margin, the sky-falling will get you. You may feel accomplished or effective by scheduling seven meetings a day, but it will blow up. Instead, plan to 80%. There will always be something that takes up the additional time. On a good day, at least 10% of that margin time will be required for things you didn’t foresee, and some days, you may get the opportunity to use the other 10% to catch-up on a project.

Appropriately compartmentalize

Depending on the nature of the sky-falling incident, it may become all-consuming. Even if you still have physical time to be at other previously scheduled things, you’ll likely be pre-occupied – so you either need to compartmentalize the new thing, or reschedule the other things. Your role as a leader depends on you being fully present. If you can’t do this, it will impact the quality of your work or interactions … some poor soul on your team is going to experience the distracted or mad version of you, because your kid decided it was a good idea to spray paint on the school’s mascot. Compartmentalize or reschedule.

Be prayed up

There will be times when skies fall, and it’s not prudent to shut your door, begin reading Proverbs, and pray until you feel ready to respond with wisdom. You’ll often need to act quickly – which you can do if you’ve built up a spiritual reservoir of recent times spent with God.  If you have a reservoir, it will spur you on in godly ways.

Don’t overreact

As I just mentioned, there are times when the sky-falling occurrences require quick action. But when it’s possible, delay your response appropriately (see post “thinking gray”). For example, if your kid gets suspended, you may think you need to head straight to the school. But maybe their sitting awkwardly in the principal’s office for a few minutes is justified.  In other instances, when you’re responding on behalf of your church, take a minute to understand the situation, your options, and the unintended consequences of the responses you may choose.

Delegate intuitively

Heading into each day, you should know what your biggest goals are. You should know what’s on your calendar or to-do list that could be postponed if your day blows up. When you’re pressed, you’re going to need to postpone and delegate must-do items quickly. Be prepared to be a delegation ninja.


Make no mistake… the sky will occasionally fall. But leaders who have done what they can to mitigate the chaos when it occurs will be able to better deal with some of its consequences.


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