THE BLOG

When Things Don't Go As Planned

02/17/2015 05:31 pm ET | Updated Apr 19, 2015

Ever wonder how you can still have a great day when you're a planner and things don't go as planned?

Here's an example of how I managed to do so over the holidays...

It all started with a 7:30 a.m. car appointment -- a bit brutal for the Monday after a holiday and appointments before 10 a.m. generally throw off my morning routine.

I got home around 9:45 a.m. and started working on projects. But since I was home with my family for the holidays, it was a bit hard to tune out the conversations and commotions, including the sump pump switch failing. My normal work flow was also interspersed with unexpected calls. Then my brother, sisters, and I had the pleasure of whipping up an Italian feast for our dad's guests.

All of this was really enjoyable, except the sump pump, but at the end of the day, I realized I had only scratched half of the items off my list. Sad. As someone who gets really excited about getting things done, I was disappointed.

So how did I make the most of the fact that my day did not go as planned?

Here are my top three strategies.

1. Plan Your Day First Thing: At the car shop, I did all of my morning processing (answered all my work email, went through my calendar, reviewed my to-do list, returned voicemails, and went through the day's paper file) so I didn't have any mental anxiety that I might be missing something important. I also came up with a clear to do list and set my priorities so I completed the most important, time-sensitive tasks first.

2. Set Your Expectations: If I had followed my own advice, I would not have planned to accomplish much my first day back in the office after five days off. Also, I need to realize that I can't be as productive when I'm home with my family. The key to feeling satisfied with what you accomplish in a day is setting realistic expectations and then achieving them instead of constantly beating yourself up when you can't reach impossible ones.

3. Give Yourself a Break: No, I didn't complete everything on my list, but I did turn in all assignments that had to be done Monday and I enjoyed a wonderful evening with my family. I could have gotten myself all in a tizzy and tried to stay up late to finish everything. But I didn't. I just forgave myself for any sense of guilt that I hadn't completed everything on my list. Went to bed on time, got up at my normal 6 a.m., and planned the next day as usual.

Life happens. You and I can't control everything and everyone around us. But we can control ourselves, plan to succeed, and then encourage ourselves to move forward instead of condemn ourselves for any regrets in the past.

"Finish each day and be done with it. You have done what you could. Some blunders and absurdities no doubt crept in; forget them as soon as you can. Tomorrow is a new day; begin it well and serenely and with too high a spirit to be encumbered with your old nonsense." -Ralph Waldo Emerson

About Real Life E
Elizabeth Grace Saunders is the founder and CEO of Real Life E a time coaching and training company that empowers individuals who feel guilty, overwhelmed and frustrated to feel peaceful, confident and accomplished. She is an expert on achieving more success with less stress. Real Life E also increases employee productivity, satisfaction and work/life balance through training programs.

Harvard Business Review just released her second book How to Invest Your Time Like Money. Elizabeth contributes to blogs like Lifehacker, Harvard Business Review, Forbes, and the 99U blog on productivity for creative professionals and has appeared on CBS, ABC, NBC, and Fox.