This has been such an interesting year for me, but it wasn’t always positive; it made me realize that there are so many things outside my control. Though I try to do my best with work, some things always get in the way.
When these unexpected events happen, they can ruin our schedules and habits, and can also interfere with our businesses. So how can we prevent them?
1. Software and hardware glitches
When my computer or any of my installed applications suddenly fails, I’m usually calm and can attempt to troubleshoot. Sometimes this works, but there are instances where I lose a day or two just trying to get things to work again.
The Fix: Since some glitches are effects of things beyond our knowledge or control, we need to focus on the things we can control. Backup your data regularly and on different media (a copy on an external hard drive, an online storage account, optical disks, etc.). Also, implement preventive measures such as practicing safer web browsing, installing anti-malware programs, and performing routine maintenance on your computer.
2. Unstable or disconnected Internet service
“Web” is the operative word in “web worker”. Without a reliable web connection, we can’t do our work well and there are some tasks we can’t do at all. So when natural calamities, ISP problems, and other unexpected issues get in the way of a stable internet connection, our schedules are disrupted.
The Fix: It’s important to have a backup connection that isn’t dependent on the same technology or infrastructure as your primary connection. For example, while I use a DSL connection via my landline, I also have a 3G modem from a mobile phone company.
But your backup connection need not be another device. It could be a place that has free Wi-Fi such as a coffee shop or a library. You can also look for nearby Internet cafes that charge a small fee per hour.
3. Client support damage control
Though we want projects to move as smoothly as possible, it doesn’t always go that way. Sometimes a client has a complaint, issue, or emergency need that’s relevant to the project and they run to us for help.
The Fix: To prevent client support from taking more time than needed, provide them with the right documents and manuals that they can refer to. Darrrell wrote about this more extensively in a previous post, where he suggested the use of FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions), user guides, and a quick reference card. Alternatively, you can outsource client support to a reliable and competent person who can deal with these issues as they come up.
4. Getting sick
This year, I found myself sick almost once every two months. The worst of it was my three-week battle with allergies where the medicine I took made me drowsy. This made it almost impossible for me to stick to a schedule.
The Fix: As Aliza noted before, it’s important to have a contingency plan in place. This will allow you to deal with any work related emergencies that you can’t deal with on your own. Don’t forget to take care of your health in the first place — including your mental health.
5. Household and family emergencies
As someone who works from home, I’m often the go-to person for family emergencies. Some of these emergencies are easily handled or delegated to other relatives, but in some cases you just don’t have the time to negotiate.
The Fix: In my experience, most clients are understanding if you tell them about the problem as soon as possible and how it will affect them. You don’t need to give too many specifics, just a simple “I had to fly to my hometown for a family emergency” will do. Don’t forget to reassure your clients as well by telling them how you plan to keep things running smoothly while you’re dealing with your family emergency. The key is to be honest and keep their expectations realistic. Even if this affects your business a little, it’s better than leaving your clients in the dark.
6. Holidays and special occasions
I always tell myself that I’m going to plan for special occasions early each year so that I’m not caught unaware. But the reality is that before I realize it, I’m only two days away from a birthday, anniversary, or holiday.
The Fix: The best way to prepare well is to put our web working skills to good use and automate things. At the start of the year set reminders in your calendar that will notify you when to start saving up for your mother’s birthday gift, when to start planning your anniversary vacation, and when to make specific purchases. If you can get these reminders in an interface you check daily (such as your inbox), you’ll never have to worry about missing (or nearly missing) another special occasion again.
Are there any unexpected events and emergencies that disrupted your schedule in the past year? How did you deal with them?