time management

Calm, Cool and Collected: How to Reset and Keep Moving When Your Day Goes Up in Flames

July 12, 2021

Reading Time: 11 minutes

Calm, Cool and Collected: How to Reset and Keep Moving Forward When Your Day Goes Up in Flames

When thinigs go south. When all hell breaks loose. When your day goes up in flames and everything goes wrong, how do you bounce back? A Reset Ritual is your ticket to going from super stressed to calm, cool and collected.

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When things go south.

When push comes to shove.

When all hell breaks loose, your day goes up in flames and everything goes wrong.

How do you bounce back? 

How do you reset, push through and keep going? 

Episode 88 is all about how to deal when nothing is going your way.

Whether your schedule is totally up-ended due to something out of your control – a traffic jam, a co-worker, your baby has a blowout right as you’re getting in the car to go to church, and you’re already late, you name it – we’ve all been there in some form or fashion.

It’s enough to make you want to hide under a blanket.

But when hiding under a blanket isn’t an option, we’ve got to reset and keep moving forward.

So today, we’re talking about

  • How to deal with things go haywire

  • Why a reset ritual is one of the most important mini-routines you can have

  • The key difference between a ritual and a habit and

  • How to choose your own reset ritual so you can take a breath and keep going when the going gets tough


 

“Office of the Congressman, How may I help you?”

“Office of the Congressman, How may I help you?”

Sometimes it’s hard for me to believe that a little over a decade ago, you could find me click clacking around the marble halls of congress in pointy toe heels sporting navy J. Crew Super 120s skirt suits and a government ID badge.

As a scheduler to a United States Congressman, it wasn’t unusual for me to spend 10-12 hour days parked in front of an Outlook calendar managing the minute-by-minute schedule of one of the busiest people in America. And by the way – a Scheduler is exactly what it sounds like. It’s like an Executive Assistant whose full-time job is managing a crazy hectic schedule.

Every week, hundreds of emails flooded my inbox, all containing details for dinners, receptions, fundraisers, meeting requests from constituents, lobbyists, nonprofit organizations, CEOs, even nuns and priests all flying into DC from Louisiana. Plus there were speaking invitations, special events, events in DC, events back home in New Orleans, on the east coast, the west coast –  not to mention committee meetings and the ever changing, ever volatile congressional vote schedule that could totally change at any given moment.

It was like creating a schedule for someone who had to be everywhere at once.

On Friday mornings, I’d organize all of these requests for my boss’s time, print each one, organize them, categorize them, make recommendations, and compile them neatly in a binder to present to our Chief of Staff. He’d turn each page, scan the details and scribble Yes, No or Staff with a bright blue marker.

Handling the no’s was pretty easy. They’d get a quick templated email regretfully declining. My love of email templates was definitely born in that role.

Passing out the meetings assigned to staff was also pretty simple. I’d pop the print out in our Legislative Director’s little office mailbox, or leave a stack on the Legislative Assistant’s desk. Sometimes even the Legislative Correspondent would get to take a meeting or two. Once the meeting was passed off, my work was done. They’d take it from there and make it happen.

But the Yesses…That’s when my work really began.

I’d meticulously examine each request, the availability they provided, their travel days to and from DC. The amount of time they requested. Remember – these meeting requests were from folks who made the trip from New Orleans to DC for 1 or 2 days max, usually only once a year. We had a tight window to work with and this was it for them. If we couldn’t match up the schedules, they might have to wait another six months or a year for their meeting. Not to mention these groups traveling up from the district were also in the process of scheduling meetings with other offices on the Hill, so there were a lot of moving parts to contend with.

 So I’d prioritize and slowly but surely craft an intricate puzzle of meetings in order to fit each and every YES into a limited amount of time. Working around anticipated vote schedules, committee meetings and making sure to leave enough space for bathroom breaks and lunch for my boss.

Sidenote – Yes, My first week on the job, I actually forgot to leave space for bathroom breaks for the congressman. That was an interesting conversation and quite a learning moment about the importance of white space or margin in your calendar.

By the end of Friday, I was exhausted from making calls, arranging, rearranging, confirming timelines and gathering additional details. But the calendar was complete, and it was a thing of beauty.

Each appointment contained the purpose of the meeting, the names and titles of everyone attending, any key decision points to be made, and any other important background info that would make the meeting a success. I could take a deep breath, and head into the weekend feeling complete.

Now – fast forward to say… Tuesday. This schedule – this pure thing of beauty that I’ve meticulously created – it’s in action. The office is running like clockwork. Constituents are happy. Staff is happy. The boss is happy. All is right in the world. I smile and bask in all of my wondrous handiwork displayed on my computer screen.

And then out of nowhere… the vote bells ring. The vote bells ring. 

Imagine a long, loud school bell – the kind that signals the end of class, time to grab your books and move on to the next.

My eyes would grow as big as saucers, and I could instantly feel my stress level rising like the mercury on the thermometer on a boiling summer’s day.

Most of the time, we knew when votes would take place. We’d usually get emails in advance and could plan around votes.

When the bells rang unexpectedly, all bets were off. The apple cart was upset. The day was blown to bits. The Congressman would have to leave in the middle of whatever meeting he was in and make his way to the house floor, regardless of where my beautiful schedule said he should be. All of my hard work was completely undone.

I would want to scream and throw things I actually heard a similar bell go off somewhere a few years ago, and all of the stressed out feelings flooded back and my fight or flight almost kicked in.

But of course – when the vote bells rang, blowing the carefully choreographed calendar to bits, instead of screaming and throwing things, I’d have to spring into action.

I’d furiously start making calls, trying to keep my cool.

Ok who’s next on the schedule? They’re on their way? Can Clayton take the meeting? Will they still be here tomorrow? Hi – How are you? Can you come at 2:00? No? Your flight home is at 2? Ok, let me call you back in just a few minutes. 

It was just a mess and the most stressful part of the job.

But – I discovered something important in the midst of the chaos that continued to serve me well once I hung up my House of Reps ID badge and moved back to Louisiana to work in crisis communications.

And that, my friends, is the importance of having your very own Reset Ritual.

reset ritual

When things go haywire and you feel the stress rising up, but you’re in a situation where you’ve got to keep your cool – having a Reset Ritual can help you regain your sense of calm and move forward with a clear head.

What is a Reset Ritual?

So what exactly is a Reset Ritual?

A Reset Ritual is an action, or series of actions you can take to calm yourself, reduce your stress level and continue moving forward with whatever task that you’re currently engaged in.

Ritual v. Habit

You could call it a Reset Routine, and that would still be accurate, but I like using Reset Ritual and here’s why. A routine or a habit on it’s own doesn’t necessarily carry its own meaning or purpose. But a ritual has meaning, purpose or intention associated with it.

For example, when you walk into a dark room, turning on the light is actually considered a habit. But it’s not a habit that we give a great deal of meaning to. The room is dark, we turn on the light. Boom. Habit complete. Not a lot of intention or deeper meaning involved, we just automatically do it.

An evening skincare routine, on the other hand, could be considered a ritual because of the intention involved. You’re being intentional about the order in which you’re applying your serum, face cream and eye cream.

So – in a nutshell, rituals are routines or habits that have intention, purpose or meaning.

Create Your own Reset Ritual

Now, how do you create your own Reset Ritual so you can calm down and keep moving?

If you google Reset Ritual, you might find a lot of different takes on what a reset ritual could look like. And a lot of the examples include meditation and lighting candles. And sure that sounds lovely!- but when my two year old is having a meltdown in the candle aisle at Target, I can’t exactly light one real quick and close my eyes for a 5 minute meditation to reset myself.

That’s not real life. In order for a Reset Ritual to actually work, in real life – when the you know what hits the fan –  it needs to have these three qualities:

01. You can do it pretty much anywhere.

First –  it should be something that you can do just about anywhere, notice that I say just about… because there are some good exceptions based on where you spend your time

Chaos can strike anywhere/anytime, so I wouldn’t recommend a reset routine that requires a special pillow or can only be done in a certain room in your home. You want your Reset Ritual to be useful anywhere.


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But there are always exceptions – Let’s say you work from home and you have a special reset ritual you use at home that involves moving from your office space to the backyard to clear your head. Making a beeline for your backyard wouldn’t work while you’re out and about, but this kind of Reset Ritual could be perfect to use while you’re at home.

In a similar vein, a physical therapist I worked with would become very stressed out when her colleagues allow their appointments to run past their end time, which then affects her patient care schedule, makes her run behind and inevitably impacts when she’s able to leave the clinic each day. It’s like a domino effect of lateness kicked off by her coworkers.  Her reset ritual – instead of blowing up at her coworkers – is to step into the supply closet and take 5 deep breaths before stepping out and seeing her next patient.

But just like your reset ritual should be something that you can do just about anywhere – if she wasn’t able to step into the supply closet for whatever reason, she could still take 5 deep breaths in the restroom or outside in the back parking lot and achieve the same result.

The point is – you want your Reset Ritual to work in different environments since life is unpredictable.

02. Requires minimal supplies, or nothing at all.

Second – it has to require minimal supplies, usually something you already have on you. As lovely as it would be to roll out a yoga mat in the middle of your office and light a candle after your boss dumps a mountain of paperwork on your desk on Friday at 4:00 with a Monday morning deadline, that’s not always possible. But maybe it is for you! And if so – that’s fantastic. But that definitely would not have worked for me in my cubicle in the Congressman’s office.

Maybe your reset ritual involves listening to a specific song that you can pull up on Spotify with you phone. Or you can say “Alexa Play Spa Music.” Maybe your reset ritual is to touch the beads on your bracelet or pray the rosary – whatever it is, it helps for your ritual to be portable, since – as we know, life is unpredictable.

03. It’s quick.

And finally – your reset ritual should be quick.

Remember – the purpose of your Reset Ritual is to calm down and keep moving when everything goes bananas, so a luxurious 30 minute wind down ritual needs to wait for another time. Your reset ritual should be quick and effective so you can get your calm, your clarity and keep rolling.

You could be like my physical therapist friend who takes 5 deep breaths, or you could say a quick prayer, repeat a mantra or use the breathe app on your Apple watch -whatever it is the goal is to hit your personal reset button, keep your cool and keep moving.

My reset rituals

As a Scheduler on Capitol Hill

My reset ritual has evolved over the years based on where I work and what I’m doing. When I worked in that crazy scheduler role on the Hill, my reset ritual was to close my eyes, take a few deep breaths, and crack open a Dr. Pepper. I mean, I didn’t say that it was healthy – but that’s what worked for me at the time.

As a State Government Communications Director

When I worked in a windowless state government office building in Downtown Baton Rouge, taking calls about oil spills and hydraulic fracturing, my reset ritual was to take the elevator down to the first floor, stand outside for a few minutes, and go back upstairs.

As a Crisis Comms PR Account Exec

At the PR firm in New Orleans, in between crisis communications conference calls, if I needed to reset – sometimes that looked like closing my eyes at my desk for a few seconds and looking at a picture of my dog, Penelope. Sometimes it looked like a quick five minute walk down Magazine Street and back.

As a Time Management Coach

And my current reset ritual? Right now I have two.

01. At my desk

Whenever I sit down at my desk and I feel completely overwhelmed or stressed, but I have a very limited amount of time to get work done, I grab a pen and start writing in a notebook. Just free writing to get all my thoughts out and onto paper. Once everything is out, I can get to work with more clarity and less overwhelm.

But that’s just for when I’m at my desk.

02. Anywhere and everywhere.

The second reset ritual in my toolbox is the quickest, most portable one I’ve had yet – and somehow it’s also the most powerful.

Whenever I can feel the stress rising, or the tears welling up out of frustration – whether I’m stuck in a traffic jam with a screaming baby, trying to get my tantrum throwing toddler off the ground at the snowball stand, or my presentation crashes in the middle of a live workshop  – I play Wait for it from Hamilton in my head.

If you’re not a Hamilton nerd like I am, it goes like this, and no I am NOT going to sing it for you.

I am the one thing in life I can control. 

I am inimitable. I am an original.

I’m not falling behind or running late. 

I’m not standing still, I am lying in wait. 

And that’s my reset ritual. Those lyrics help me shift my mindset, my perspective. It calms me down. Helps me keep moving forward.

Maybe it sounds ridiculous and you’re like – oh my gosh, Anna wow, you’re a total nerd, I can’t believe you’re telling us this – but y’all – if it works, it works.

Your challenge

So my challenge to you is to design your own Reset Ritual that you can put into action next time you can feel the stress rising, and you want to blow your top, but you just can’t.

Maybe you copy and paste mine and it works well for you. I’d love that. Maybe you take deep breaths in a supply closet. Maybe you get up and do some stretches or you go for a walk.

What’s something that you can do that can be done anywhere, that doesn’t really require a bunch of stuff or supplies, and that can be quick, so you can hit the reset button and keep moving?

RECAP

Having a Reset Ritual is your secret weapon to regaining your calm, finding some clarity and moving forward when your stress levels are rising. A ritual differs from a habit because it’s got intention and meaning behind it. And the best Reset Ritual is one that can easily be done anywhere, with little to no stuff required – and it’s quick.

 

What will it take you to get from chaos to calm?

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