I keep a bulletin board in my office with quotations that inspire me and help me respond to unexpected challenges (the good, the bad, the indifferent) throughout the day. As an independent writing consultant, I balance deadlines and client meetings along with the other roles I have, professionally and personally.

After receiving an email from my child’s school notifying me of cancellation in transportation again that week, I read an excerpt from Steven Covey’s book, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, before making a plan.

With an important deadline and a “must attend” meeting on my schedule that day, “it’s not what happens to us, but our response to what happens to us that hurts us,” was what I needed to read to help maintain a positive attitude despite a challenging start to the day.

Give Yourself Permission to Adjust Your Goals

If something out of your control happens, it is unrealistic for you to achieve the same goals you had before the unexpected change to your day. Allow yourself to adapt.

While this may seem reasonable, I have actually sat in an airport shaking because I worried that I wouldn’t be able to send a client their document on time after being informed of a flight delay. I wish I could say that this happened several years ago, but that happened in the spring of 2017.

When I heard about the snow day this week, I handled it by taking action. I took a deep breath, and wrote a to-do list for the day. It had only “must do” professional and personal tasks on it. Here is my list from earlier this week:

  1. Call client regarding 2:00 p.m. meeting
  2. Make lunches and snacks
  3. Complete client draft

Yes, it’s very short (and much shorter than my typical to-do lists on a weekday). However, this was intentional. These “must do” tasks were designed to keep me focused on what I needed to complete for the day with my nine-year-old home.

Taking Action – Executing my Adapted Plan for the Day

After calling my client to change the format of our meeting, (we met via FaceTime instead of driving a half hour in poor weather conditions), I moved on to making lunches and snacks.

After nearly three years of being a business owner, I have become more aware of my best and worst qualities. I can focus on a task for several hours at a time, but I will unintentionally skip lunch. However, this also slows down my productivity (and often results in a headache). On this day, I took 10 minutes to make some snacks and sandwiches. Additionally taking time to fill two water bottles to ensure that my daughter and I had plenty of food/drinks for the day.

Next, I spoke to my daughter about what to expect during the day. We spent some time playing cards together before having an hour of independent reading and play time while I worked on the draft (also known as item three on my to-do list).

If you have younger children at home, you will probably have to do the bulk of your work during their nap/quiet time, and complete tasks later in the day. Whenever the changes in your day affect your commitment(s) to a client, let them know as soon as possible. I was grateful that my client accepted my proposal to meet virtually instead of face-to-face.

Celebrate Your Success

I was able to complete all of the items on my list by the middle of the afternoon. I also took breaks to eat lunch, and play a couple of games of Crazy Eights with my daughter.

While my typical to-do list on a regular day is much longer, I was proud of myself for meeting my commitments to my clients and taking care of my personal needs.

Happily, I celebrated crossing all three items off the list by sharing a bowl of Doritos with my daughter.

It is my hope that you can learn from my successes (and mistakes) the next time an unexpected challenge presents itself in your business. At times, there will be situations in our businesses that we can’t control. However, it’s definitely your choice how you view and respond to them.