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When Life Takes You Off Track

01/06/2015 08:13AM ● Published by Aimee Cormier

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By Craig Jarrow

Life has ways to disrupt productivity. Recently, as I settled in for a 2-½ hour flight, I planned on getting quite a bit of work done on the flight, including catching up on email, writing a document and making a project plan. Then things went off track.

The plane sat on the runway for over 30 minutes. Once the carrier was airborne, the Internet connectivity, a lifeline we now take for granted, was on the blink. To add to the situation’s gravity, the person seated next to me appeared to believe that my seat was his seat as well. The concept of “personal space” did not seem to be in his dictionary. Needless to say, my plans of being extremely productive on the trip were dashed.

Have you experienced such surprises recently? A long wait that you weren’t expecting? An urgency that pushed your project back? Something that didn’t work out as planned? When detours rearrange your schedule, you must determine the best response.

You can waste time commiserating about your situation, or you can do something to get your work back on track.


Get Your Productivity Back on Track

Success depends on how you react to what happens.

You can get mad. You can pout. Or you can take action fulfilling your goals despite what has occurred.

Here are 10 tips to help you get back on track when deviations have derailed your plans:


Always Have Backup Tasks – Times that you cannot accomplish your primary work will inevitably occur because a resource or person is unavailable. Always have other work to address. 

Have A Plan B – Since the unexpected arises everyday, always have an alternate way to accomplish your work. Several routes lead to the resolution of a task.

Check Your List – If you don’t know what to do next, check your list. Often, you will find that you have plenty of minor tasks that you can accomplish before tackling a major challenge.

When You Can’t Do A Lot, Do A Little – When situations prevent you from getting a lot of work done, be happy with doing only a little. Even completing a few smaller, lower priority tasks is better than completing none at all.

Bring Reading Material – Because you never know when you are going to have an unexpected wait or downtime, have reading material handy for a quick filler. Reading is a great low-energy task that you can fit in almost anywhere.

Go Low Tech – When technology thwarts your objective, go low tech. In the afore-mentioned situation of the plane, I switched to paper to solve my problem. I wrote my business plans in my trusty Moleskine® notebook that didn’t require Wi-Fi. Hence, I was still able to be productive.

Don’t Complain – When things go awry, complaining doesn’t accomplish anything. Whining about adjustments only delays reolutions. Instead, take action. Do something about your situation.

Take Action – When life takes you off track, you can sit idly by or you can take action to right things. Don’t be passive. Don’t wait for life to do something else. Take positive action to get back on a fruitful path.

Be Flexible – Being able to adapt is key to getting your work done. You can’t control every stumbling block (nor should you try). Roll with it. Be flexible. And be willing to adjust your course.

Maintain A Positive Attitude – Attitude, more than anything else, will determine chances for success. Being positive has a magical effect of turning even the worst of scenarios in the right direction.

Recovering Your Productivity

When the unforeseen derails your productivity, make sure you control your own reaction. Stop complaining, waiting and making excuses because none of these resources will redirect your energy. Instead, maintain a positive attitude and take the actions necessary to getting yourself back on track.




Craig Jarrow is the author of Time Management Ninja - the blog rated one of the Top 3 “most influential in productivity today” by Biz 3.0.  He has been featured on CBS MoneyWatch, Huffington Post, Lifehacker, American Express Forum and more.

While widely accepted as one of the best business blogs for information on time management, productivity, technology and goal-setting, Jarrow’s conversation style coupled with his easily implemented tips make him a favorite for anyone who wants to win the battle against wasted time and disorganization.


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