The *Other* Five-Minute Rule

dali-clockNo matter how much I try, for the last few weeks I’ve been late–to client meetings, to hair appointments, to teaching gigs.  It’s frustrating because I  don’t know why.  It wasn’t that I secretly didn’t want to go or was afraid. Just late.

So I kept track of what made me late and found out some surprising things.

1. It takes you longer to get there then Google Maps tells you it does. A GPS system takes you from door to door, not from the time I get in the car, can’t remember if I’ve locked the front door, go back and check (I did), grab a bottle of water, get back in the car and drive. At the client’s, I have to enter the parking garage, find a parking place, walk to the parking lot elevator, and cross half the “campus” to find the right building. All that adds up. None of that is accounted for on Google Maps. Now I add 15 minutes to Google Maps just to get there, and if I have to drive across the Valley, another half hour for traffic delays. I can always take a book or work with me in case the lights line up and I get there early. What I didn’t want to admit is that leaving an extra 45 minutes was needed. I kept trying to do more work in less time.

clapperboardalarmclock2. That “one last email” before you leave takes more time than you think. In my case, finishing up “a few things” was about 20 minutes, not the “can’t be more than five minutes” I originally thought.

3. “Leaving” means out the door, not to the bathroom, stop to put on lipstick, and round up the cats, who are not interested in my schedule.

4. I’m slow in the morning. No matter how I wish I could wake up and get out the door in 20 minutes, it doesn’t work for me. I need at least an hour and 15 minutes to get ready and eat breakfast. So I need to leave that amount of time.

5. If the meeting is in the middle of the day, it often means I have to change clothes or at least shoes. It also means I have to lock up the house, and check to make sure I’m not watering trees or doing laundry. (I learned the hard way never to leave the washer running when you are out of the house.)

When I’m working and busy, I underestimate how much time I need and how much work I have. So I have to figure out when I need to leave and then give myself a ten-minute window to actually get out of the house. At first I felt anxious that I was wasting time. With a long to-do list, though, my idea of wasting time is changing. Trying to do “one more thing” is a bigger waste of time than I had imagined.

Quinn McDonald wears a wrist watch. It’s an analog watch, because she needs to know what time it isn’t along with what time it is.