Stay Calm When Life Drives You Bonkers

Over the past month, dozens of BNET readers have kept time logs for me. I always tell people that there are no typical weeks, but for a few readers, the early part of June happened to hit the busy season at work, or a few simultaneous and huge life changes.
How can you stay calm and productive when every minute really counts?
BNET reader Carolyn Edsell-Vetter is a landscape designer, and the mom of a 5-year-old and 5-month old. When we first started corresponding, her baby wasn't sleeping through the night yet. That's tiring enough at any time, but May-June is also Edsell-Vetter's crunch season at work. People survey their yards in late spring and decide they want to do something new with them. In between answering client questions, she just couldn't find 90-120 minutes of focused design and estimating time. Except maybe late at night, but then she'd be too tired.

The first order of business? Sleep training the baby. Beyond that, though, she figured out a few other ways to stay sane. "I've shifted so I'm getting up before the family 2 days a week to get that solid chunk of productive work time, and negotiated other set work times with my partner,” she says. While she had the nice-sounding benefit of being able to bring her baby to work 2 days per week, she also gave that up for a little while, "just to get through crunch time,” she says. She began triaging her to-do list frequently, saying no and "using billing to deter excess demands on my time” by charging rush job rates for rush jobs. She also forced herself to make time to run "even if I'm choosing between run and sleep,” she says. "I find that I'm much more productive, centered, and able to take the constant twists and turns of a seasonal service business and of parenting small children when I am able to get my runs in!”

BNET reader Adam Miller likewise wrote me that he was having some atypical weeks. He'd just gotten married, and then his new wife broke her foot. The couple had just adopted a new puppy, Fenway, which meant that as the lone fully mobile member of the family, a lot of the walking and puppy care fell to him. His time log featured some early morning wake-ups, and trips home from work in the middle of the day to walk Fenway again. These time consuming lunch breaks made it hard to carve out time to do creative work.

Miller was coping by making sure to get a few long bike rides in (exercise is wonderful for nixing stress), and also by keeping a positive attitude. "I keep reminding myself that this hectic period is only temporary,” he says. "I'm also trying to embrace the situation and (as crazy as it sounds) enjoy some of the chaos. Fenway will only be a puppy once, and it's an incredibly exciting and unique time.” So his advice to other people with a fixed-term time of craziness is to "look for the positive, unique parts of the situation and try to appreciate them for what they are.”

How do you deal with a busy season?

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Photo courtesy flickr user, moffoys