Everything takes longer than you think it will.
I have always prided myself on my time management. I am pretty convinced that I know how long it takes to go to the store, feed the horses, do the laundry, put together a cover letter for a proposal. My dad taught us to always be on time, if you can’t be a little early, and I always am. Or was.
Lately, I am—well—late. Last week, for instance, I was 15 minutes late for my meeting with the County, and then I was 30 minutes late joining a conference call, and then I didn’t get a letter written until 45 minutes after I said I would. Yeah, okay, not that late, and not a big deal—but it wasn’t the first time … and it was noticed.
So what happened to my punctual little self? Simple: I tried to squeeze in one too many things. I saw someone I needed to talk with on the way out of the office, and I stopped to talk to him. Was that 15-minute conversation more important than the meeting I was going to? I thought so in the moment. Still, I can’t say that the people waiting for me thought they were less important than the guy I was talking to.
I have been trying to “squeeze in” just one too many things in a day: a chat, an extra email, a phone call, lunch, taking the car to be serviced, a physical … if I can’t make it work in a linear fashion, then I do them all simultaneously. I eat lunch and answer my emails while I am getting the oil changed (which I put off for 3 months), at the place that says they can do it in 15 minutes. So then it takes 30 minutes, and I am wearing my lunch, and I am 15 minutes late to get wherever I am supposed to be. My emails are answered however.
So here is what I have learned:
- Know how much time things take to do. And then double it. Maybe then you will allow people working for you to have enough time to do their job. You can always fill extra time.
- Prioritize your day the way you should prioritize your work. Every day, not just the day you are getting married, or going to a football game.
- Minimize the multi-tasking. Then you can focus. There is no such thing as multi-tasking—there is just doing things one at time, faster.
- If you can’t get it all done then you have too much to do. Ask for help, then let them do it on their own.
My dad was right, being late is rude and disrespectful, even when people say they understand.