Have you ever heard the saying, “Your lack of planning does not create an emergency for me?” I love that saying and wish life really worked that way. But it doesn’t. The fact is that other people’s lack of planning creates emergencies for me all the time (and honestly, sometimes it’s me creating the emergencies!). But if I refuse to help because they weren’t organized, I feel (and look) like a jerk.
So what do you do when you’re dealing with people who are chronically unorganized and keep creating emergencies for you? Sometimes these strategies can help:
- Anticipate. Sometimes you can see the situation coming. Because of past experience, you know what’s going to happen. In that case, you prepare yourself mentally to deal with the emergency because now you know it is coming.
- Plan Ahead. This takes anticipating a step further. You anticipate the emergency and you come up with a solution beforehand so it’s not an emergency for you.
- Remind. This one doesn’t always work but it’s worth a try. If you know something’s coming up, remind the person involved in case they are willing to go ahead and act on it in a timely manner. I’ve used this strategy a lot in the past. Some people appreciate it and some don’t. I worked with a music minister who did not appreciate it. He was a fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants person and any reminders felt like nagging and pushing. I learned to back off and let the chips fall where they may. It was very frustrating for me and I didn’t end up working with him much longer.
- Do it yourself. If you know what’s going to be needed, sometimes you can take care of it yourself. Again, some people appreciate that and some don’t. My boss at the law office where I worked loved it. He’d come in at the last minute, tell me what he needed, and I already had it ready. But he was unusual in that he was a great delegator.
- Keep your routine tasks up to date so you can take the time to handle an emergency without creating a new emergency. That same boss at the law office tended to throw last minute things at me all the time – many that I didn’t see coming. So my daily strategy was to get as much of my regular work done as soon as possible so that when he threw an emergency at me, at least my regular work was caught up so I could focus on the emergency.
The bottom line is that not everyone is organized and that’s just the way it is. Rather than fight it, it’s best to just accept it and do what you can to deal with it. As Julie Morgenstern says: “You can’t always control what life throws at you but you can control your response.”