In a meeting with my SHINE team this morning, Darcy kicked things off with a story about her challenging morning. Darcy is an effervescent, never-a-dull-moment-when-she’s-around, how-can-we-make-this-even-more-fun kind of gal. She’s also a fantabulous mom who keeps a million balls in the air at all times, most of all the schedules of her “faux triplets” – twin girls and a younger brother who arrived close behind.
Today, her son’s bus was late, which gave her a late start leaving home, which made her have to drive her giant black SUV like a bat out of you-know-where to get to our meeting on time. Settling in at our table, she sighed, “Maybe you should blog about how we can all get a little more wiggle room.”
Ah yes, wiggle room.
We need it like we need oxygen. Sometimes I refer to it as white space. Or margin. Breathing room. Or downtime. Whatever you call it, when we don’t have enough of it, and there are consequences, sometimes dire.
When we pack our schedules to the brim from the second we wake up in the morning until our heads hit the pillow at night, we are robbing ourselves of wiggle room. That white-knuckle pace causes stress because if just one meeting runs long or one child cannot find his shoes, we are facing a domino effect that can last all day.
Here’s what happened to another woman on my team last week.
I was forced to learn this lesson the hard way last week. Jeff was out of town for work, and I was rushing through my day-to-day life as always. Rushing to get the kids ready for school, fed and on the bus, rushing to a meeting, rushing back home for a conference call, and then rushing to my workout…except, well, I never made it to the workout. Let’s just say the garage door decided to stop me. NO ONE WAS HURT unless the back window of my car and garage door have feelings. As you can see, I’m rushing and rushing and not paying attention…
Could you use a little more wiggle room in your life?
Here’s how to get it:
1) Build margins around your appointments.
While I’m a big proponent of scheduling, I also believe that you have to leave some windows of unscheduled time in each day to create those bits of wiggle room. Try blocking “on ramp” and “off ramp” time before and after each meeting to gather your belongings, or jot down some notes, or just to take a quick bathroom break! This simple change will help you feel more organized and less frenetic before and after each event….and those margins provide valuable cushion should you happen to begin or end an appointment later than planned.
2) Do fewer things.
Before you say it, I will. In order to build in those margins, you’ll need to take a few things out of each day. You can do it. I promise it will be okay and the things you do get done will be done that much better because you have room to breathe.
3) Ask for grace.
So what if something more substantial throws you off schedule enough that you can’t avoid being late or have to cancel altogether? This is when you ask for grace. Try telling the person you’re meeting exactly what really happened and give her a chance to surprise you by being understanding! The bus was late, the dog threw up, I backed into my garage door… the odds are in your favor that she’ll have been in a similar situation herself at some point and you can connect human to human about it and move on! This applies as much to a girlfriend you’re meeting for coffee as it does to that BIG meeting you waited months to land – both humans – let them show you.
4) Edit your day as you go.
Sometimes your schedule will get thrown off enough that you’ll need to re-think what’s possible for the rest of the day. When that happens I look at my list of what I’d planned to do and cut out at least one thing to get myself back on track. I gracefully notify the person I was supposed to meet or I intentionally move the task to a different day if it’s something I was going to work on alone. I don’t try to catch up on my original plan because I’ve learned it never works and I just end up frustrated. (Beyond that, I’ve repeatedly found that most people are delighted to get an hour back in their day so that they can get caught up themselves!)
We’ve all been there, checking our watch at the bus stop, knowing we’re going to be late, stress building as each minute ticks past. Before it happens to you again, why not take a moment to figure out how to give yourself a little more wiggle room? Believe me, you’re worth it.