Hacking Your Schedule and Being On Time

All too often I find myself rushing to or from something, arriving just in time (which is actually late) or calling to say “I’m running about 10 minutes late”. It always bothers me to make that phone call because because I know what I am really saying is that I don’t value the other person’s time, and that a failure to plan on my part has unfairly caused an inconvenience on theirs. I value my time, I dislike it when other people waste mine, and it’s even worse when I’m the time-wasting culprit. Beyond that, the frantic state of mind distracts from the activity or person for which I made the trip in the first place.

Richard Swenson in his book, “Margin” writes that “Calendar congestion and time urgency have robbed us of the pleasure of anticipation … [and] the joy of reminiscing” (p. 127). This and similar thoughts have been on my mind since last summer when I first read them, and while I still have a way to go I want to share a brief success story that really surprised me today. Read on to learn about a very useful strategy that worked for me even in the midst of a rushed Saturday morning.

Today I attended “Music in the Valley”, a choral workshop hosted by Shawnee Press, Hal Leonard Corporation, and J.W. Pepper. These are all-day workshops where church musicians who lead choirs gather to discover new music. I find them to be very useful, although one challenge for me is they tend to start rather early on a Saturday morning. This one was on my calendar for 8:00 AM. Fortunately I didn’t oversleep, although it was 7:00 AM by the time I actually got up. One trick I learned some time ago is to enter the address for an event into my GPS days in advance so I can save a few moments the day of the event and also have a mental idea of how long it will take to get there. Turns out I didn’t follow my own advice here so first thing I got my phone, opened the calendar, and tapped on the address (that at least I remembered when entering the event) to get the driving directions. It told me 40 minutes which means at least 45 when you consider traffic or other possible delays. I would need time to park and get my name tag, etc. so I figured to be “on time” I needed to leave the house by around 7:00 AM.

Now, I could have gone into a panic to make myself somewhat presentable and jump in the car, but surprisingly I had the wherewithal to recognize that I was almost certainly going to be late and got ready to go with just a mild urgency. As I went to get grab my car keys and put my shoes on I started mentally preparing me for arriving late, getting the worst parking spot, and walking in 15 minutes after it started leaving only the rear-most seats available. I thought of “Margin” and decided that I wouldn’t rush on the way their either. I considered that I had two choices: I could drive in an irresponsible manner, evoking anger at any stop light or similar delay; or I could accept the fact that I would be late and just live with it. In a sense, even though I was running late I was already preparing mental margin for myself. Had I taken the former option I would not only have potentially put myself and others at risk, but I would absolutely not be arriving in any way prepared to turn my thoughts to God and what we were singing.

So I took my time getting to the church where the even was held, following the speed limit along the way, and arrived about 10 minutes after 8AM. I walked briskly to the entrance, and was immediately taken aback when I entered. There were people mulling about in the lobby, some browsing through music that JW Pepper had on tables, one woman was registering, and others just talking amongst themselves. It took a few moments, but then I realized what happened. Months ago when I registered for this event, I deliberately put the wrong time on my calendar. It was scheduled to start at 8:30 AM, but I had scheduled myself for 8:00 AM. So when I entered the church at 8:15 AM thinking I was 15 minutes late, I was actually 15 minutes early. It’s amazing how such a little thing can make such a difference, especially when the final effect is sometime in the future. My brief decision last Fall knowing there was a good chance that I would be running late now in January, definitely brought some joy and relief to my morning.

David Allen in Getting Things Done refers to this as the difference between the smart and not-so-smart parts of ourselves. (p. 86) In my case, the smart part scheduled the event for a half-hour earlier than it actually was, and the not-so-smart part hit the snooze button.

It later occurred to me that had I followed the natural temptation to panic, I would have arrived perhaps a few minutes earlier but certainly no better off. Instead of the joy of what could be considered a “God Moment”, I would instead have been disappointed over the unnecessary stress I imposed on myself. Jesus reminds us not to be anxious in Matt 6:25-34 asking “And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life?” (v. 27). If you just trust and put your cares on Him, a lot of times He’ll surprise you.

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