You’ve got an appointment across town and it’s a 15-minute drive. As your alert-to-depart goes off on your phone you hunch over your desk from a standing position. Yes, it’s time to go but just one more check of email, Facebook, Twitter, whatever. Check. Check. Check. Nothing urgent but still you respond to one of the emails AS IF. Now your scheduled departure is pushed back a few minutes and you’re rushing around gathering up your things in an effort to get out the door. Run out to the car, UGH, forgot your keys, rush back in and now, you have exactly 14 minutes to get from point A to point B.
On the ride over you are stressed. You keep looking at the clock as if it really matters. And honestly, you’re most likely driving like a proverbial bat out of hell trying to make up a minute here or a minute there. If you catch a yellow light you curse or speed through it. If you hit a traffic snare you honk and maybe raise a fist or a finger. You are amped up, your heart is beating way too fast and your blood pressure just shot through the roof. When you arrive at said destination someone asks you how you’re doing and you reply, “Oh! SO BUSY! SUCH TRAFFIC! SO MUCH TO DO IN NOT ENOUGH TIME!” Blah, blah, blah.
It’s an old song and one that is easy to stop singing if you really want to. Whether you are a corporate big-wig or a stay-at-home parent, the need to speed can be eliminated with just a few simple steps or by even choosing just one of the steps below.
• Give your schedule more space. Whether it’s 2 minutes or 20, give yourself enough room to breathe between activities. Wherever you’re going to a board meeting or school pick-up, factor in just a few more minutes than you think you’ll need for seeing, connecting and enjoying the journey to get there. You will feel happier, healthier and won’t cause such a ruckus when you arrive. And just think how much more pleasant you’ll be in traffic!
• Plan a pause. In each day, especially before a big presentation or big familial transition, schedule in a 2 minute pause. Set the timer. Sit. Breathe. Relax. 2 minutes. That’s it. (If you’re reading this and thinking “I can’t do that!” I’m sorry for you. Seriously.)
• Do one less thing than you originally scheduled. Need to finish a project by week’s end? Or maybe get supper on the table before it’s time for bed? Look at your list of to-dos whether it’s written on paper or bouncing around in your brain. What’s essential? What’s not? Choose one thing to eliminate and by doing so you can actually create precious time. Imagine how powerful that feels!
• Decide not to rush. Sometimes the feeling of rushing is more about the feeling than about the actual clock. When wrangling so many ends of a project or so many little people, it can feel like panicked rushing is the only option and if you don’t create a feeling of hurrying than nobody will get anywhere. Next time you are feeling rushed, make a conscious decision NOT to rush then simply move through the necessary steps of getting to the next step. Most often, when we let go of the panic, the calm that ensues makes us more productive than ever. And in the words of my friend and colleague Carrie Contey, Ph.D., “If you want to speed up, slow down.”
• Pause before you RSVP. Whether you are invited to a party or a committee meeting, before you respond, consider the cost vs. gain for you and the work you are trying to do. It makes no matter if you are CEO or a SAHP, if it doesn’t benefit somehow, why do it.
• Examine your commitments. Look at your calendar. Assess what’s on there. Meetings, parties, events, etc. Then ask yourself, “Is this working for me/us?” Ask weekly. Or monthly at least. If it’s working, keep it going. If it’s not, find a way to make a change.
• Decide to be done. You will never really be done. So sometimes we just have to decide to be done. Close the laptop. Put away the calendar. Put down the broom. Just be done.
After you implement just one of these steps, I guarantee your next ride across town will feel so easy and relaxing that you might just wave someone in ahead of you.