When emergencies or tough times arise, how do you work through it? Here are a few ways to cope when it’s not business as usual.

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Life happens. Whether it’s a health emergency, loss of a loved one, an unexpected move … crises crop up. And yet, work must go on, no matter the dire circumstances. Our jobs, projects and clients sustain us financially and keep us sane and grounded in our “normal” life.

I recently had a couple of unannounced tsunamis wash over me. I paddled hard to stay afloat and on course. Here’s what I learned about managing a career during tough times.

Let go of what you can. Acknowledge that you are not going to be able to perform optimally during an emergency. You won’t have time — and you might not always think clearly. Assess your work, shift deadlines, decline or farm out work, and scale down your workload to the absolute minimum.

Convey your need to work. I’m a freelance consultant and writer, and sometimes, family members take this to mean that I can turn off work whenever I want. Hahahahaha. From the get-go, outline your professional commitments and ask for support and understanding.

Block out time. Every day. Treat this as inviolate and sacred office hours. Determine your most productive time — perhaps early in the morning when it’s quiet and before things have a chance to go off the rails — and stick to it, no matter what. Let your clients and co-workers know when you are available and let everyone else know that you are off-limits during this time.

Communicate more than usual. When I am in crisis, I go to my internal crawl space and have a lot of head chatter. The problem with this is that I start assuming that others know what I’m talking about, even when I start verbalizing in the middle of a conversation that was only in my head. Stop. Gather your thoughts. Use your words. Overly explain. Think of this granular communication as catastro-splaining.

Micro schedule your day. When you have a lot of details to manage and move through, not to mention a lot of personalities and emotions, it’s far too easy to get derailed or lose your train of thought. Take time each morning to map out your day in 30-minute increments, including work and everything else on your plate. Refer back to your schedule throughout the day to refocus and stay on track. And keep in mind what’s urgent isn’t always what’s most important.

Jennifer Worick is a veteran freelancer/contractor, publishing consultant and New York Times bestselling author. Email her at jen@jenniferworick.com.