I hear it most plaintively from two categories of writers: clients waiting for me to do something and queriers who wonder what the hell I do all day since it's clearly not answering their email.
Here is a pretty good illustration of the answer:
I'd planned for a reading day. I have several people waiting on fulls, and I have some manuscripts I'd asked to see from contests, and the incoming material from the Houston Writing Guild conference I'll be attending next week. It's hard to read in the office, so I'm working from home.
First thing this morning I got a contract off to an author to sign. He's leaving on a trip soon and we need to get this done. Clearly a top priority.
Second thing was dealing with emails that needed immediate attention.
Third was prepping a submission list today for a project I'm going out with soon. I did it today so I could send it to my eagle eyed colleague Brooks Sherman for his input.
Then I planned to read most of the afternoon.
Of course, what happened is a manuscript landed in my inbox that needs immediate, which means RIGHT NOW, attention. So I'm not reading any of the stuff I planned to read, I'm reading this one.
This happens all the time.
One of the things it took me the longest time to learn (if indeed I actually have learned and fully implemented it) was remembering to allow for this when I planned things. Or promised to have things finished by a certain date.
When I talk to clients and querieres about when to expect something back from me, I look at my date book. I try to remember not all those blank lines are going to stay empty. And even if they were empty yesterday, tomorrow can change all that in a New York minute. Now I try to plan to leave at least half to three-quarters of any day reserved for the things that arrive with no notice and on fire.
Almost every culture has a way of saying "God willing and the creek don't rise" for making plans. The Islamic world says Insha'Allah.
I think of it as life imitating art: