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Full Time, All the Time

with Britt Reints

Forget the 9 to 5; the demands of a working mom aren’t limited by a time clock. Full Time, All the Time is a blog about balancing the many roles of a modern woman - and maintaining your wellbeing while doing it. I am a writer, mother, wife, sister, daughter, friend and sometimes volunteer living in Pittsburgh. Oh, and I think you look pretty today.

You can also find Britt on Twitter and at

When your failure to plan is, actually, my emergency

Categories: Uncategorized, office life


“Your failure to plan ahead does not constitute an emergency on my part.”

For people who have had to learn the fine art of saying no, this is a familiar adage.  Even if it is only said internally, this little quip can be a helpful reminder about personal responsibility - where yours ends and mine begins.  It’s about keeping your own priorities in place in the face of huffing and puffing, basically.

If you haven’t heard it, imagine yourself in this scenario:

You get a frantic call at 3:00 pm on a Friday.  Your coworker forgot that they needed information only you can provide in order to finish an important job they’ve been tasked with.  This important job is due at the end of the day.  You?  Normally need at least a full business day to supply the type of information that’s being requested.  You also have plans for after work and a few more things you need to finish up before heading out at 5:00 (because you have one of those TV jobs that ends at 5:00, in this scenario).  Your coworker is, of course, adamant that you need to get them what they need immediately.

“Your failure to plan ahead does not constitute an emergency on my part.”

Does that mean you don’t help?  Not necessarily.  Does it mean you remember that you don’t have to freak out just because your coworker is?  Hopefully.

I encountered a similar situation last week.  An editor contacted me asking for help; they were in a jam and needed me to supply about two weeks worth of work in two days.  It was the end of the month, which is always my busiest time, and I would have to drop a handful of other projects in order to help them meet their deadline.

Did I help?

Yep.  My editor did a few things exactly right and I made a mental note to employ these tactics the next time I wanted someone else to make my emergency their own.

First of all, she asked for my help.  She explained the situation she was in and no way insinuated that I was responsible for her making her deadline.  It’s easy to project your own urgency and panic onto the people you want help from when you are desperate for assistance, but she kept the balance of responsibility perfectly in check.

Second, she offered to make it worth my while.  She understood that I didn’t have to help her and that what she was requesting was out of the ordinary.  She needed me to go above and beyond what I would normally commit to, and so she sweetened the pot.  This sounds like a no-brainer, but I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been hauled into someone else’s emergency as a favor.  While favors are nice, they can also breed resentment in a working relationship if overused.  I was impressed that she offered me a financial incentive in her very first email to me, which made me feel like she valued my contributions.

The result was, I think, a win-win situation.  She met her deadline and I made some extra money.  Ironically, her emergency actually helped to elevate her in my esteem because it lead to me feeling appreciated.  And I think I learned a little something about getting what I need and want out of life:

The next time I need a “favor”, I’m going to figure out a way to make it less of a favor and more of a win-win.

Photo by Annie Mole on Flickr.

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3 comments so far...

  • This scenario happens to me almost as a course of routine at work.

    Phe  |  October 6th, 2010 at 11:44 am

  • Love this. LOVE this. A positive spin on how to accept someone else’s emergency as your priority, when it’s worth doing so. Brilliant. I am usually on the receiving end of the emergencies so I think while I help those people I will point them to this post. :)

    Poppy  |  October 6th, 2010 at 2:27 pm

  • Never had a cash incentive but I did get 2 bottles of good tequila once from someone who knew I didn’t have to stay late to do that task for him but really really wanted it for a presentation.
    It was a nice thing.

    Mich  |  October 8th, 2010 at 9:58 am