Saturday, March 27, 2010

Time Management, Time Schmannitchment.

I was looking over my happiness commandments, and I realized I haven’t really written about #10: Be Prompt and Polite. That’s probably because this is the happiness commandment I have the hardest time keeping. I’m very polite, I think, but I am the least prompt person I know.

And yet I somehow managed to procreate with the most prompt person on the planet (by the way, that witty alliteration was unintentional! I just noticed it when I re-read this before posting it!). So in order to keep from driving said spouse off the side of a cliff, I have worked and worked on being more prompt. I’ve read books on the subject. I’ve researched it online. I’ve tried to scientifically modify my own behavior.

And all this research has led me to the conclusion that I have poor temporal perception, that I underestimate the amount of time it takes to complete activities, and that I try to squeeze too many tasks into the amount of time allotted.

Yikes! I’m a time management mess!!

Julie Morganstern, organizer extraordinaire, recommended in one of her books to actually take a week and time yourself in all the activities that you normally do. Since the times will vary, doing this over a week will allow you to figure out the average amount of time it takes to get tasks done. I have never been focused enough to do this, but I do think it’s great advice.

The things I’ve done that have worked to make me more prompt include getting up earlier in the morning, preparing everything ahead of time in the evening, overestimating driving time between clients’ homes, starting to end speech visits long before I think I should end them (which it turns out is usually right about on-time), and planning to be places 15 minutes early so that I can catch up on some reading while waiting once I’m already there. This last one is a sort of behavior modification program I came up with for myself, and works when my schedule isn’t crammed to the gills. Which is rare. But at least I’m working on it. (Insert sigh for my poor prompt husband here. Oops, again with the alliteration..this is getting scary.)

The thing is, on days when I actually get up early, and have things prepared ahead of time, and am on time to all my appointments, it really does give me a happiness boost. So you would think that would be reinforcing in and of itself. But I guess not enough. Ugh. I think I need to read Julie Morganstern's book again for some inspiration.

One day, I will be both prompt and polite, and a peck of pickled peppers.

Do you think it’s rude for people to be late? What helps you be on time for things?


  1. Oh TJ, this so describes me! And I really didn't understand it until I also married a very PROMPT man - he's never late, in fact he's early to everything and I work very hard to change my habit of being late b/c it annoys him so much!

    Like you said, my problem is that I have seriously NO CLUE how long something will take to do. And so I think, oh I have about 10 minutes before I need to leave so I'll just do xyz.... and next thing you know I'm late. And WHEN I'm doing something, I don't sense the passage of time. I'm very focused on what I'm doing and so I don't have an internal sense for what "10 minutes" feels like in duration. So I can think 10 minutes has passed and it's 30 minutes. It's crazy! But now that I understand this about myself, I've learned a lot. When I think oh I have 10 minutes, I just go ahead and go and get there early and use the 10 minutes on the other side - often doing a 20 breaths meditation which can be done anywhere. So I see the benefit of getting somewhere early is that I get some meditation in my day without even trying!

    It's so nice to have someone else also on this journey of learning to be prompt! Thanks TJ for all your happiness discussions!

  2. Hah, thanks for the comment, Lisa! It makes me feel better than I'm not the only time management work-in-progress out there!