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How To Successfully Cope With Unexpected Events & Stay Organized

By August 8, 2021October 4th, 202318 Comments

I know. No one organizes their day considering unexpected events. Honestly, when you organize your day, you are simply hoping your plan works out. None of us knows for sure that nothing will interfere with what we plan. Or at least, no one I know can see into the future. We make our plan based on the information we have at the time. Since the unknown is, just that, unknown how do we successfully cope with unexpected events that occur in our day and stay organized.

What is unknown?

Let’s think about the common unexpected events. These include lengthy phone calls, a child’s temper tantrum, misplaced keys, an appliance breaking, a disagreement with a spouse, partner, or roommate, or maybe a traffic jam or car accident to name a few. We can’t know if or when these things will crop up to interrupt our plan for the day.

We also don’t know if someone with whom we have an appointment will be on-time or late.

What’s a person to do?

How do you successfully cope with unexpected events and stay organized?

There’s only so much even the most organized person can control. And you don’t want to be constantly looking over your shoulder waiting for something to interfere with your plans. So, make a plan and organize your day according to the importance of things on your to-do list and any scheduled appointments.

Then, build flexibility into your day.

Here are 10 things to consider when organizing your day

  1. Know what is most important (or time-sensitive) to accomplish and do that first.
  2. Acknowledge when you do your best work and schedule the most challenging work during that time
  3. Think about where you are going, consider the time of day, and allow extra time for traffic
  4. If you have toddlers, do not schedule important calls at the end of the day when they are likely to be short on patience
  5. Understand what you can let go of today and release it willingly
  6. Reschedule that task, if necessary, for another day and time or let it go completely
  7. Is there a task you can delegate to someone else?
  8. Recognize that life happens
  9. Grant yourself grace and space during the day – allow yourself time to decompress and breathe
  10. Accept that plans can change – things can be done at a different time and in a different way

Plans change with unexpected events

A plan is not a hard and fast rule. The best plans are organic and ever evolving. Don’t get me wrong. I am a planner. I love to make plans to get things done but the more years I spend working as a professional organizer the surer I am that plans are meant to be works in progress. Something always interferes with my plan.

The trick is to successfully move past these unexpected events and maintain the organization in the rest of your day.

Life happens

You can plan all you want but life happens. Maybe you have a plan to spend the day painting a room but just as you are ready to start your project, you get a call which requires you to drop everything. What if your best friend calls and needs to talk? Perhaps the appointment you have in your plan for today is rescheduled for later in the week. Suddenly, you now have a day with nothing in your calendar in the morning.

Another scenario could be that just as you are sitting down to work, the washing machine backs up and the laundry room floor is flooded. Your plan for the day gets thrown out the window while you quickly turn off the water to the washing machine, and then make several phone calls to get the problem fixed.

Life happens, unexpected events occur which change your plans. This can make you feel off balance and out of control.

To successfully cope with unexpected events, you need to know how to juggle the things in your plan so you can accomplish the important and time-sensitive tasks. Use the 10 things to consider as you re-organize your plan for the day and take back control. Don’t let unexpected events throw you completely off balance.

For on-going support, guidance, and accountability with planning your time consider joining the Clear Space for You virtual clutter support group.

Diane N. Quintana is a Certified Professional Organizer® ,a Certified Professional Organizer in Chronic Disorganization®, Master Trainer and owner of DNQ Solutions, LLC and co-owner of Release●Repurpose●Reorganize, LLC based in Atlanta, Georgia. Contact Diane for a free 30-minute phone conversation.


  • Life is continually an adventure with all kinds of unexpected things happening. I have a note on my vision board that says “plan to go off the plan”. Love your list of coping strategies!

  • I think planning your day is so important. I do this first thing in the morning. It helps me focus. If something unexpected happens I’m able to shift my schedule around, make a few calls and move on. I have had to learn to be flexible.

  • Lucy Kelly says:

    I really like how you remind us that sometimes letting go of a task is the best option. Trying to somehow incorporate the interrupting incident into our day and still get everything done is an exercise in frustration and yet how often we try to do just that! “A plan is not a hard and fast rule” is my new mantra, thank you!

  • Julie Bestry says:

    This is all great advice, and it’s one of the reasons why I’m a big believer in 1) not waiting until the last minute to prep things and, relatedly, 2) always prepping everything for the next morning the night before. There are still a few sticky wickets — the underground water pipes in my complex are old, and at least three or four times a year, the water has to be turned off for some number of hours. I never print handouts for my in-person presentations (remember those) the night before, but many days before, just in case the printer goes awry or the ink runs out. I try to plan so that the unexpected doesn’t throw a wrench into everything, especially because I’m not a particularly flexible person, but sometimes #s 8-10 are the hardest for me. Thanks for your smart insights!

  • The ability to roll with life’s punches is a learned skill, and I love this post for that reason! Assigning levels of importance to tasks is a great activity to build awareness of what you’re doing in your day-to-day life.

  • How right you are! For smaller plans I will just adjust. For bigger plans I have a plan B. Things can go wrong and they do and often it’s out of our control.
    I have found that when you think ahead and plan ahead you can put out some fires. You’re covered. And for everything else you have to ask yourself, how important is it?

  • I do find that flexibility in a day is important. I love your tips. I like to have gaps throughout the day to help with emergency situations.

  • Seana Turner says:

    We had an unexpected event last night. All sitting down to watch the latest “Ted Lasso” and the power unexpectedly went out. Fortunately, it was back on this morning, but that is one reason I still like my paper systems. Even if you are “all digital,” not a bad idea to keep a few backups on paper just in case!

  • Diane- I LOVE this one! Life does throw curveballs, and you gave some great examples of what might happen. But as you also said, you can’t sit around waiting for things to go sideways. That’s no way to live. Your suggestions all hinge on being flexible, creating white space in your calendar, and giving yourself grace when the plan needs to shift.

    I’ve experienced my share of emergencies that have altered my plans. At those times, priorities seem more clear. The things that I planned to get done can wait or be rescheduled. But an emergency becomes the top focus when it’s happening. Having the resources at my fingertips to navigate these emergencies has been helpful – like the phone number for AAA when the car broke down or the list of mom’s medications and important numbers when she ended up in the hospital. So some planning for the resources you might need IF something happened is useful. But then you can let go of the worry. You might never need them.

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