I might unwillingly be something of a stress junkie, because regardless of the hours of yoga, meditation and reflective writing I like to put myself through, whenever I have to be somewhere I am inevitably running around like a chicken with my head cut off.
Let’s take a recent lunch date. I have plans to meet up with a friend on her lunch break and at quarter to I look up and realize that if I’m going to be on time I’ve got to leave right away. No problem. I save my word document, shut off my computer, find my shoes and take a quick look in the mirror. Oops. Forgot to put on makeup this morning. Also forgot to wash off yesterday’s black eyeliner experiment and I look like a young hungover Madonna. No problem. A quick face scrub and I’m looking presentable. Now I just need my purse. Which one was I using? The one I can’t find. After a few minutes I find purse under pile of clothes. Realize my keys are not in it and completely rip the house apart looking for them. Found them! They were in the couch cushion. Look at clock. I am officially supposed to be there. Okay, I’ll just send friend a text that I’ll be late. But wait, where is phone? The house is already torn apart from the key search so I just toss things around for a few minutes. Then a few minutes more. Start feeling desperate and hope that friend will call so I will hear my phone. No such luck. I could just leave without my phone but I only know her office building and not her actual office. Plus I’m so late I’ve got to call her to let her know. This feels like a vicious circle. Ten minutes later breathe a sigh of relief when I hear my phone’s low battery beep and see it on see phone on top of ledge over stairs. I race full speed out the door, hoping no one will see my house before I am able to disguise the craziness of the last half hour.
Get in car and drive like a maniac. When I arrive I call friend to triumphantly annouce I’ve made it. Because I was late she ended up getting on a sales call and needs to put me on hold for a few. I look down and realize I have no gas. None. Like I must have driven here on fumes. I do have a few minutes I peel out of the parking lot look for a gas station. Find one. Turn up the music really loud so I don’t have to listen to that worrying screeching noise coming from my brakes. Arrive at lunch date with a blood pressure of 160/80. Not good.
So why does this happen, over and over? I knew what time I needed to be there. I kept an eye on the clock so I wouldn’t be late. But still, the chaos. Over the past few weeks I’ve done some serious work on my personal timeliness and here are the things that have helped me:
1. Always have a half tank of gas and $20 in cash.
Always. These seem to be the 2 things that cause the most panicked delays for me. How many times have you been late and realized you had to stop at the gas station or go to an ATM? Fill up your car when the tank is half full, and stash $20 in your glove box.
This habit can also help you save money, because if you’re filling up your car when you want to then you can fill up at the station with the best prices. Also, my husband thinks my full gas tank is sexy. It might work for you.
2. Create a nightly routine of checking tomorrow’s schedule.
Every night before I go to bed I check my planner to make sure I know where I need to go the next day and what time I have to be there. This of course requires me to write things down–but this is necesary I have no brain without my day planner
3. Always know where your keys, purse and (charged) phone are.
Every night I put my purse and keys by the door and make sure I plug in my phone. I also keep a phone charger in my car for emergencies.
4. Calculate “getting ready time” in real time.
How long does it take you to get out the door? In theory, 30 seconds. In reality, about 15 minutes. Remember, it’s all the little things that make you late–finding your shoes, taking the dog out, checking your voice mails, looking up directions, making sure you have on two of the same earring (I have to do regular checks of this, as I have a bad habit of wearing one dangly earring and one stud. I once even went to a yoga class wearing 2 different shoes, but we’ll save this for a different post).
Need to be somewhere at 1:30? Calculate how long it will take you to get there (without endangering anyone’s life with stressed driving) then add an extra 15 minutes to that.
5. Put a clock in your bathroom.
I can’t believe what a difference this has made for me, but I guess it makes sense, because the bathroom is where I usually am when I’m making myself late: trying to decide if I can get away with one more day of unwashed hair, plucking eyebrows, putting on eyeshadow…
6. Reward yourself for being on time.
I have a giant purse so that I can always keep a book with me. When I get somewhere early I pull out mybook and read for a few leisurely minutes.
7. Take care of your transportation.
If you drive, you know how bad it sucks to have car problems–you have to drop everything to go haggle with an annoying mechanic. And besides the few freak accidents you can usually prevent problems if you take in your car immediately when it needs service.
If you take some kind of public transport make sure you have your pass/tickets/change, whatever you need as well as a back up plan if necessary.
8. Be happy about being on time.
You will be considered more trustworthy, dependable and pleasant when you are on time and not stressed out of your mind whenever you arrive somewhere.
Now if I could just find my phone…