Plan for the unplanned with Zoho Cliq

Plan for the unplanned with Zoho Cliq

Explore how effective planning, capturing, prioritizing, and managing unplanned interruptions help you not get lost, reduce stress, and make sure you stay productive throughout. Discover practical steps and tips on how to expect the unexpected and handle these disruptions with grace in Zoho Cliq.

We've all been there: The frustration of having our tasks planned out only to get a message that throws everything off track. No matter how much you plan, there’s always going to be some level of uncertainty, and unplanned interruptions will always pop up—be it a critical bug, new features, reports to be done, questions from other teams, an urgent customer request, pitch decks, founder requests, or other incidents.

According to Pagerduty's research on "Unplanned Work: The Human Impact of an Always-On World", unplanned work not only affects productivity and leads to burnout, but also negatively impacts 70% or more of staff in various factors, including heightened stress and anxiety (up to 76%), reduced work-life balance, and less time to focus on important work.

Source: The Unplanned Work report | Pagerduty

And it's even harder to switch back to the planned tasks you were doing a while ago (in fact it takes an average of 23 minutes and 15 seconds to get back to the task). 

In any workplace, we often find ourselves in ever-changing environments, with constant influxes of new information and dynamics. No matter how much of a clear path you plan ahead, just as in any journey, you will encounter unexpected obstacles, and handling them well ensures you reach your destination.


Even though these interruptions are annoying and pull us from the flow state, they are also normal. Every person, team, and organization experiences them. It’s how they’re handled that matters, since each interruption is an opportunity to improve our product and business in some way.

The fact is, they cannot be eliminated, but you can find order in chaos and adapt when the unexpected strikes to reduce the stress and surprise factors when handling them.

Here are some approaches to plan for the unplanned ↓

A. Capturing unplanned work requests

The first step is to effectively capture these ad-hoc requests. Requests can come from various sources: email, chat, project management tools, customer support tickets, and even water cooler conversations.

1. Connect your favorite tools

Zoho Cliq Marketplace

If you're someone who has 40 tabs open and switches between five tools every two minutes to make sure you don't miss a beat, you're doing more harm than good. Integrations are your best friend here.

Integrate your essentials with Zoho Cliq to automatically get notified about tickets, tasks, customer requests, issue or bug reports, design or document comments, payments, invoices, transaction notifications, and much more, right when they happen.

Convert important chat messages into actionable tasks instantly using Message actions, ensuring urgent requests or ideas are promptly addressed and documented in a structured way without getting lost in the noise.

Message actions in Zoho Cliq

2. Create designated #channels

Instead of a catch-all generic channel (e.g., #issues, #requests, #development), set up targeted channels (like #bugs, #incident-reporting, #design-issues, #ux-ui-issues, #security-issues) so that each problem goes to the person best equipped to tackle it. This ensures more immediate attention, faster responses, and clear accountability.

3. Better capturing and reporting

It's always better to nip issues in the bud. Use Slash commands and trigger Forms to encourage conscious reporting of these unplanned tasks and requests in a more structured format, ensuring all vital details are captured upfront instead of scattered chaotic information.


Use Webhook Tokens to automate and receive notifications from third-party sites, enabling seamless integration and real-time updates in your workflow.

But how do you turn existing, unplanned requests into the structure you want?

You can use Message actions to log the message and convert it into an actionable request or task, either into a custom app or any tool of your choice.

For example, if a colleague casually tells you about a customer issue, design feedback, or bug they faced in a Cliq conversation, you can convert that message to a Zoho Desk ticket, or a Figma comment, or add it to your personal Google Sheet.

You can also extend integration notifications to other apps as well (e.g., add an Intercom support ticket notification in Cliq as a task in Zoho Projects).

4. Plan and prioritize

Once you've captured all the unplanned work requests and have them automated and organized, the next challenge is prioritization.

All unplanned work seems urgent, but before dropping everything and addressing the interruption at hand, use the 5W technique.

An example scenario: You're managing a product release when the development team discovers a critical bug.

1. Why: Assess the impact of the bug on the product's functionality and user experience. Is it a show-stopper or a minor glitch? Have multiple users reported this?

2. Workaround: Investigate if there's a temporary solution or workaround to mitigate the impact of the bug. Can the user achieve the same result using an alternative way?

3. Wait: Can this bug wait until the product release is done? Is it worth delaying the release if fixing the bug properly requires more time?

4. Where: What is the priority of fixing the bug compared with other tasks in the release schedule? Is there a deadline?

5. What Drops: Determine which non-critical tasks can be delayed to focus on resolving the bug and ensuring a successful release.

Asking these questions help us analyze and prioritize tasks, making sure that only critical, time sensitive requests are given top priority in your schedule

B. Handling the unplanned  

1. Squeeze it into the current schedule

This is usually how most of us work: When an unplanned interruption strikes, we drop what we're currently working on and pick up the new task. This works for the time being, but it can often get you lost in a sea multiple backlogs.  

As teams expand, this make-shift approach becomes less effective, resulting in more context switching and less reliable delivery.
It's important to "predict" the unplanned and balance work items so you don't get consumed by interruptions and spend most of your time firefighting.   

2. Create a dedicated buffer time

Planning is often guessing. While a schedule makes us feel in control of the day,  we have to hope for the best and preparing for the worst.

Allocating a few hours of the day specifically for theinterruptions helps focus energy on the task at hand, reduces context switching, and improves the quality of work.

This buffer time allows for flexibility in handling unforeseen events, ensuring that important tasks are not overlooked. Additionally, if no emergencies arise, this time can be used for additional planning and picking up tasks from the backlog, making it a valuable asset in managing the unexpected.

💡 Bonus: Schedule quiet hours or days to work on tasks at hand with undivided focus and a sense of calm without interruptions. 

3. Have a dedicated person or team for reactive and time sensitive work

By having a dedicated team or a rotating nominated member, you tackle things that otherwise might fall into a backlog and never be prioritized. For example, by assigning the newest member of the team (with a shadow for support), they’ll naturally be pushed to explore and solve problems in domains that they otherwise might miss.

You can run a scheduler to notify which team member is the rotating responder for the week, so they're alerted when it's their turn.


This approach shields other team members from distractions, allowing them to maintain focus on their roles and tasks. It ensures that nothing falls through the cracks and helps manage a substantial load of unplanned work and interruptions.

If this is out of scope for you, you can always divide, split up tasks, and delegate them to other team members if one's schedule is tight, helping you to finish your current task and pivot more quickly to the next.

C. Continuous improvement 

Each interruption is a learning opportunity and a step toward the improvement of your business and product.

If you're finding yourself spending more time on interruptions, examine deeply. Is there technical debt in your team? Is there a backlog of technical debt within your team? Are there recurring quality issues that require constant firefighting because they were not addressed effectively initially? Are there communication gaps or a lack of knowledge sharing across teams? The more questions you ask and the more layers you peel, the more you'll reduce the  frequency of these interruptions.

When all you do is react to the unplanned, and there's not enough time to execute the planned, more projects are crammed onto the plate, leading to more multitasking, escalations, long backlogs, unresolved issues, and constant broken focus.

Here's what you can do to reduce the frequency of interruptions →

  • Enhance your quality assurance (QA) procedures to prevent bugs and issues from reaching production and affecting your product.

  • Streamline communication and share knowledge with other teams and customers to understand their needs before they become urgent, and provide opportunities for input.

  • Create reminders to make sure you follow up on any verbal commitments, such as "We're working on this and will update soon" to ensure teams fulfill their obligations promptly. Set clear timelines for upcoming updates so that customers are always in the loop.

  • Make sure you mark and note down unresolved commitments so you don't miss out on updating progress and status.

    A few ways you can do this easily are marking a message as unread, navigating the @mentions view to check who has mentioned you, starring messages to bookmark them for reference, pinning them in folders for better accessibility, and build custom bots to remind you a few days before the deadline to make sure you never skip a beat.


While it's impossible to eliminate unplanned work interruptions, you can manage them effectively by capturing requests from various sources, prioritizing tasks using the 5W technique, having reasonable deadlines, and handling them through scheduling or dedicated teams.

Continuous improvement and addressing root causes is key to reducing their frequency and impact. Start automating and planning for the unplanned with Zoho Cliq, and experience peace of mind, enhanced productivity, and improved work satisfaction. Implement these tips today to see the difference and start automating.

Explore Zoho Cliq now →


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