Open Notebooks with pen showing handwritten list

Taming chaos with my PEN

Life is often chaotic. We can plan and make contingencies; however, sometimes it’s not possible to plan for every unforseen possibility. When the unexpected happens, what are ways to “keep calm and carry on”? Prioritization, evaluation, and negotiation are three methods I use.


Are there specific tasks that have hard deadlines? Does one task need to happen before the next step. For example, perhaps you have a meeting at a specific place and time. Tasks related to that event have higher priority than others. But it’s also important to not loose sight of longer term projects that are happening simultaneously.


What things can move? Is it possible to break a task up more and work on it either in a different location or in a even smaller steps? If you change your method for completing a task, would it help you make progress? One example could be drafting a section of a newsletter on a tablet or outlining key points in a notebook in a waiting room instead of the normal process on a laptop. It’s not ideal working conditions, but those moments can be used in a productive manner.


Communication is key! Even if you are negotiating with yourself, it’s important to communicate. If unexpected events cause me to rearrange my day, I make note of the new plan–even if I have to scribble it on a Post-It note. If I think I may not be able to meet obligations I’ve made with others, I try to communicate this as soon as possible. This is a balancing act, and the level and frequency of communication depends on the project.

I hope this quick review of my PEN method helps you when life is chaotic. If you’re feeling completely overwhelmed I advocate fifteen minutes for a brain dump.