How to Stay Focused When Plans Keep Changing
I’m a planner. I like checklists and itineraries and schedules. Give me a map and I’ll plod along, one foot in front of the other, until we reach our destination. Of course, life isn’t always so easy. In fact, lately it seems like all my finely tuned plans have been turned upside down. Just like the old saying goes: We make plans and God just laughs.
These days, you have to be able to “go with the flow.” You can’t let fluctuating plans throw you into a tizzy. Minor changes (like switching the date of a meeting) and major changes (like company buyouts) happen nearly every day. And sometimes, even a seemingly minor change of plan can have a frustratingly huge impact.
If you find yourself in a situation where plans are fluid and you’re having a hard time keeping focused, try the following techniques.
Give Yourself Permission to Be Annoyed
Set a time limit. Ten minutes, maybe twenty minutes. During this period of time, complain all you want about how frustrating this change of plan is, how inconsiderate people are, how impossible this change will be to accommodate. Get it all out. But stick to your time limit. When it’s over, it’s over. No more venting; it’s time to get focused again.
Find Wisdom in the New Plan
So, the beautifully calculated plan you created went up in smoke and, in its place, there’s a new plan. It’s probably not fully fleshed out yet but you can see the outline of it. Find a way in which this new plan is better than the old one. Make up a reason if you have to. “I’ve always wanted to see Sheboygan. I’m so glad they moved the location of the conference.”
Recognize the Limits of Your Control
For most of us, the frustration with changed plans is that we feel out of control. But, the reality is, we can’t control everything and everyone. When a decision is out of your control, it doesn’t help matters to let it steal your energy. If you have no control, throw your hands in the air and ride the roller coaster. Acceptance is your only choice.
Embrace the Control You Have
If nothing else, you have control over yourself and your reaction to the change of plans. It might not seem like a lot, but it’s all you need. You can choose to react in a calm, poised and graceful manner or you can choose to freak out. You can choose to find solutions to make the new plan work or you can choose to rail against the change. Make productive choices.
Focus on the Next Step
Don’t try to think of every little thing that this change of plan will impact. Just think of the next step. What is one thing that you can do to feel more comfortable with the situation? Don’t try to re-evaluate the big picture right now. Just take one step and then, focus on the next one. Before long, you’ll be able to step back and look at everything with a level head.
Over the past few years, many people have faced some mighty big wrenches in their plans. Some experienced layoffs just months away from retirement. Others faced losing their homes due to overwhelming debt. Plans are great, but we shouldn’t ever get too comfortable with them. We can’t predict the future. It’s much better to be prepared so we can cope with changes as they happen—with grace and poise—and stay focused on moving forward.