Productivity for Solopreneurs: Insights to getting things done #113 / Choosing between an impromptu visit and your to-do list

Choosing between an impromptu visit and your to-do list

I was searching through my blog archives last week and came across something I wrote seven years ago that really stuck with me.

It’s about what to do with impromptu visits.

Those “hey, I’m in town today, want to grab some lunch” type of unexpected invitations.

For me, they usually come from family members.

And I’m a planner. I like to have appointments on my schedule at least a week in advance and my tasks for the week outlined before Monday morning.

When I get an impromptu visit or lunch request, it can feel like someone took a large cartoonish wrench and threw it into my well planned and thought out week.

Do I want to spend time with them? YES!

AND I want to get the things I had planned for the week done too.

The problem is if I always say no last-minute requests of my time, I might not have an opportunity to see that person again for a few months.

I don’t know about you, but one of the reasons having my own business was appealing was that I could occasionally enjoy these impromptu visits.

So, if I say no to these visits, am I honoring my schedule and plans or am I being too tied to them?

Here’s what we forget about our to-do lists, schedules, and plans sometimes: they are there to help you and work for you. You do not work for them.

It sounds a little weird to say it like that, but sometimes in our quest to get as much done as we can each day, we forget that there are other things to do.

Life doesn’t always fit in nice little compartments and since you’re reading this, I’m guessing you really don’t want it too. You want a life with flexibility.

This doesn’t mean it’s always easy to put aside my plans for the week and have brunch with family instead. I have things! that must be done! And if I start my day late, those things! Might not get done! (does anyone else’s brain work like this? Or is it just me?)

This is when it’s helpful for me to take a breath and realize that if there are no appointments scheduled, then the things! can be done later.

When I have impromptu visits and my mind is ping-ponging between GO have fun and STAY to complete the things! I ask myself these questions:

  • Are there any appointments or meetings that this will overlap or interfere with?
  • Are there any deadlines approaching that will be negatively impacted?
  • Have I already spent time this week with unplanned visits?
  • How will this impact progress on my goals?

The gist of these questions is: will my business or goals be negatively affected by spending time elsewhere?

If so, is spending this time with this person more important than my business and/or goals?

Notice that I wrote “is spending this time with” and not “is spending time with.” That one little word changes the meaning of the sentence a bit.

Again, your schedule and to-do list are meant to help guide you and make your day flow smoothly.

They are not a ball and chain that keep you tied to your office or computer.

If you’re treating them like that, step back, get curious and ask yourself why.

Leave a comment letting me know when was the last time you said yes to an impromptu visit.

And if your schedule and to-do list feel like a ball and chain or if it feels impossible to say yes to an impromptu visit, then reach out and let’s talk. The easiest way to do that is to leave a comment or fill out the Contact Me form here.


What Do You Want Done?

ChecklistIf you could only get one thing done today what would it be? Would it be something for your business? family? personal?

Would you start that project you’ve been thinking about? Or maybe you’d finish that project you’ve been trying NOT to think about?

Would you take that book that you want to finish and curl up on the couch or head to a park and spend the afternoon reading?

Maybe you’d treat yourself to some pampering or call up a friend and catch up or go out to dinner.

Would you take your kids out for ice cream or a movie, just because?

Would you pick up your significant other early from work and spend some much needed alone time with them? Or maybe plan an impromptu date night?

What would you really like to be doing? What’s stopping you?

Are you too busy? Can’t find a babysitter? Can’t afford it? Admit it, those are just excuses.

How can you still have that experience that you want and work with the constraints you might have?

Too busy? What’s your real priority? How can you free up some time?

Can’t find a babysitter? When is the babysitter available? Work with her/his schedule. Alternatively, can you include your kids in the experience?

Can’t afford it? Can you have a similar experience from home or a park?

Now, these questions might be helpful for what you want to get done today or the reasons (or excuses) that it’s not getting done. Hopefully, these questions provide a starting point.

So, if you only got one thing done today, what would it be? Share in the comments below!

Image courtesy of Rawich /

“Everything Happens For a Reason” or “You Can Learn From Everything”

When you first read both those statements they sound very similar. However, they’re actually very different.

Everything Happens For a Reason
This saying indicates that every event or outcome happens specifically to teach you something or move you in a certain direction.

You Can Learn From Everything
This saying indicates that you walk away from every event or outcome having learned something.

What I Believe
I do not believe that “everything happens for a reason.” I find it incredibly hard to believe that I am meant to learn a specific lesson or move in a specific direction for each event that occurs in my life. I am a firm believer in personal choice and responsibility.  “Everything happens for a reason” feels too much like I’m placing events and results in someone else’s hands instead of taking responsibility where it’s appropriate. The example I always come back to is an unexpected death of a healthy young person I knew. I find hard to believe that it happened specifically so one person (or a few people) could learn something or move toward something or that there was a “reason” it happened.

I do believe that “you can learn from everything.”  This puts the choice in your hands and you get to ask questions like “What can I learn about myself from this?” or “What can I take away from this experience?” In the example above, I find “you can learn from everything” much more empowering. Instead of looking for the one reason his death occurred, I looked for the lessons that I learned about myself and others.

Which saying do you believe?

Here’s Why It’s Not My Fault

This is the third and last post in this series. The first can be found here and the second here.

There was a time of my life when I absolutely dreaded being called into someone’s office, because it generally meant one of three things:

  1. I was going to be given more work to do (I already had too much to do and not enough time to do it).
  2. I was going to sit through a meeting that wasn’t going to do anything for me other than take time away from my other tasks.
  3. I was going to be “yelled at” for something falling through the cracks because I was working on other higher priority issues and now this thing was the high priority.

No option was something I wanted to spend my time on.

This is the last of three posts where I’ll go through one option and review how I reacted and an alternate that might have made me (and the people around me happier).

3. I was going to be “yelled at” for something falling through the cracks because I was working on other higher priority issues and now this thing was the high priority.

How I reacted:
I was immediately on the defensive. Explaining why it had fallen through the cracks: I had lots of other high priority, fix it now issues that I was looking at. Oh, and the client didn’t express that this was an important issue when I was reviewing their other high priority issues with them. Basically, I was saying that it’s not my fault and these are the reason why.

An alternate:
First, I want to take a look at the start of the sentence: “I was going to be ‘yelled at.'” Actually, it was rare for me to walk into an office and hear a raised voice in my direction. The times I do remember raised voices were generally after I explained why something wasn’t my fault and took no responsibility for a problem I helped create.

I very rarely accepted responsibility for something falling through the cracks. It pains me to say that now (I’d rather not admit it and avoided writing this post so I wouldn’t have to revisit it). Responsibility and honesty are two important values for me. I wasn’t honest with myself about what was happening and thus avoided taking responsibility for some messes I caused or contributed to.

At the time I didn’t realize that part of the problem was that I wasn’t taking responsibility for my role in things. I felt I was doing the best I could with each situation and I wanted to avoid being “in trouble” as much as possible. “Yelled at” was another way I worded being “in trouble.”

Making a mistake and thus being “in trouble” meant I had done something bad and I would beat myself up over it. At some point I realized that making mistakes is just something that people do unintentionally. It’s not good or bad, it just is. And instead of beating myself up over it I can look at what actions led up to the mistake and what I can do differently in the future.

When I was able to reframe making mistakes, I was also able to take more responsibility for my actions (or inactions) and the results. One side effects of taking responsibility for my part in problems was it was easier to describe what the problems were. My focus had shifted away from making sure I wasn’t going to get “in trouble” to solving the problem.

So, while I wasn’t taking responsibility for things I should have been, the real issue was that I didn’t want to be “in trouble.” Have you ever had a similar experience?