Tips for navigating the unrelenting uncertainty

Dec. 20, 2022 | 5 Min read
Rural Australia is a living text book of managing uncertainty. And yet again, amidst extraordinary weather and resulting floods, we find ourselves reeling with even more uncertainty, writes Dr Kate Burke.

Rural Australia is a living text book of managing uncertainty. And yet again, amidst extraordinary weather and resulting floods, we find ourselves reeling with even more uncertainty, writes Dr Kate Burke*.

The consecutive years of less certainty and more frustration are racking up. Can you remember what a normal year felt like?

A third year of making tens of tiny important decisions a day, hundreds a week, thousands a month all with incomplete information. Decisions that keep you and your family as safe and as functional as circumstances allow. It’s exhausting to think about, let alone live it.

The tips below for managing uncertainty are bound by a common factor. They rely on the personal power of the human in charge. And that’s you.

1. Thoughtfully manage your thoughts

Thought drafting is a useful trick for choosing which thoughts to focus on. It is an adaptation of Stephen R Covey’s Circle of Concern and Influence. To use a cricket parlance, some balls need to be let go through to the keeper, some need to be carefully blocked and others hit for six to free up time and energy to focus on what really matters.

2. Be clear on your role at any given time

You are leant upon as a friend, family member, or volunteer in the community and a professional – especially during difficult times. We only have a certain amount of energy, and under stress we need to be judicious about where best to spend it. Your community may see you as a leader but beware rescuing others to your own detriment. Your family may be looking for a parent or a sibling or partner, not a manager. Each role is different, and obligations will vary.

In pressure situations, a useful skill is to be able to listen to others’ angst, without absorbing entirely. The heat of a crisis is busy and demanding, often with no simple answers. You will have enough of your own stress without owning everyone else's.

3. Dial up awareness and replace judgement with kindness

Emotions are data, and by monitoring our own and others’, we can guide our thinking and actions. This helps manage the uncertainty and make constructive decisions under pressure. It helps to be mindful of other people’s experiences and how best to relate cooperatively. Awareness is the first step of any negotiations. Pick your battles. When a customer walks through the door, looking angry or distressed, maybe today’s not the day to raise the issue of the overdue account.

When an employee has been out on the road for weeks doing flood loss assessment, maybe they deserve to be cut some slack for being late with timesheets.

Counterproductive decision-making in times of stress is normal. When uncertainty and stress are rife, ‘flight or fight’ mode kicks in and tends toward emotional decision-making rather than rational. Not everyone may heed your sensible ideas, or you may find yourself behaving in regretful ways. When trying to encourage others, remember you cannot control their decisions and actions.

Be kind to yourself and remember you are human. Compassion to self and others is critical for navigating your way through uncertain times.

4. Set boundaries and maintain your machinery

Our clients service their equipment daily during peak period like harvest but how well do we service our most vital machinery – our minds and bodies?

“Stress is not the problem, the problem is lack of recovery,” according to performance expert Mark McKeon. Set boundaries for recovery time and turn off your phone. Your mind, your body and your family will thank you for it.

Practical tips include getting adequate sleep, eating well, exercising, and scheduling fun and relaxation. These things all add to our resilience bank.

5. Prepare multiple plans to adjust to changing circumstances

Replacing fear with acceptance and planning for several possible outcomes is vital to manage the avalanche of continually changing circumstances.

Think of something you need to plan for.

Assess the current situation: What do you know? What don’t you know? What are three possibilities and what do you know about the odds of each situation occurring? What do you need to plan for each scenario? And, most importantly, repeat the process each time a major change occurs.

This process gives us plan A, B and C to work from, so when the pressure is on, we’ve already done the thinking and can go straight into action.

*Dr Kate Burke, author of Crops People Money and You, The Art of Excellent Farming and Better Returns, is an ag scientist, agri strategist, educator and speaker. Her book outlines a road map for sustainable profit taking and legacy making with less stress. Visit

Categories Management

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