Anne Boegel has a great piece up on time management. Instead of the usual, “here are better ways to save time,” she reflects on the feeling of having more time. Here’s her insight: Hurrying makes you feel hurried.
Isn’t this just a truism? Maybe. But I found myself nodding in agreement, because I’ve spent the last year and half wondering why I’m always slightly annoyed when I have to go anywhere or do anything. Part of it’s London, sure – the crowds, the pollution, the noise.
But part of it is me.
When I lived in Southern Italy, my type-A-do-everything-perfectly personality had to let go or kill me. So, letting go it was. And I was happier for it. Get to the post office, stand in line for 2 hours, only to have them close for lunch? Oh well. Arrive at the bus stop only to have the bus not stop as it drives past? Too bad. Set out with a grocery cart only to find the grocery store randomly closed with no sign of explanation? I’ll get over it.
But my letting-go attitude didn’t exist in a vacuum. It existed in a world where everyone acknowledged that accomplishing one errand in one day (post office, grocery store, etc.) was enough. Being 45 min late to a meeting because the bus didn’t stop for you was normal. (In fact, being on time was highly irregular and you were pretty much guaranteed to be the only one in the room.) The whole day was margin around the one thing to be done.
I’m not saying this way of being is great for a flourishing economy. But for the few years I was there, it was great for my soul.
I inhabited a world in which there was no hurrying. I didn’t feel compelled to rush through my shopping in order to be efficient – because I didn’t have anything else to do that day. I didn’t feel the need to hightail it to a meeting, arriving sweaty and flustered, just to be there on time.
It changed my perception of productivity and time. During my first week back home in America, I went to the post office first thing in the morning, mailed my package, and then found myself wondering what I could with the rest of my otherwise free day. More errands did not spring to mind.
It didn’t last long, though. A year later, I was texting a friend in a panic about everything not going according to plan, being late, and failing to complete tasks. “Where’s that cool Italian girl?” she asked.
Now that I live in one of the world’s busiest cities, I find that type-A-ness and rushing are the norm: for the people around me, and for me. It certainly gets things done, and gets them done efficiently. But I’m not sure my soul is flourishing.
There’s got to be a happy medium, and I think it starts with me setting up my days not to have to rush. If I can start being the kind of person who doesn’t need to hurry, then I won’t be hurried. If I can take my time going to the post office, why should I mind if there is a queue? Does Tesco’s really require me to rush through the aisles? Why can’t I wander slowly? And if I miss the bus, what is lost by an extra 9 minute wait? [I admit to grimacing at the thought of sitting at a crowded bus stop for an extra 9 minutes!]
What am I rushing for? And what are my goals, anyway? Do I want to be as productive as possible? Or do I hope to be a person with calm in my soul?
I’d like to be both, but I think it starts with setting up my day to have margin around the things I need to do. Maybe the margin can’t be the whole day, but I want it to be enough of the day that I can be the kind of person who isn’t hurried.
Do you have margin in your day?