I almost called this “the discipline of being present” or “the discipline of being here,” but that sounds like mindfulness—a great thing, but not what I’m talking about today.
I’m talking about the discipline of being literally, physically present where I am. Butt in chair, feet on floor, body in the room, from beginning to end.
I started going to a 6am exercise class last month. I have to wake up early to be up and out. And I love it. (I know, I don’t know who I am anymore, either.)
The 6am crew contains a fair number of people who rush out the door when class ends to get to work—who need to shower and change before they’re ready to move on with their life. I don’t need to look polished by 8am; I just need to get my kids off to school. I have enough time.
And yet. During the last minutes of class, the instructor reminds everyone that if we need to leave, no worries, we can. We showed up for 55 minutes, and it’s completely fine to slip out the door to carry on with our day.
I have the time I need, but I find this so tempting. Every time. I’m always eager to steal a few extra minutes, and she’s offering. Why not rush away and use those five extra minutes for the next thing on my list?
I might have done it, because I will never scoff at five extra minutes. But last month I also read the new book from productivity and time management author Laura Vanderkam. It’s called Off the Clock: Feel Less Busy While Getting More Done, and it’s coming out on May 29.
Whenever I pick up a new time management book, I think, Is this really going to teach me anything I don’t already know? (Sorry, Laura.) The answer is often, Nope. But I loved this, especially because I felt like it found me at exactly the right time.
In the book, Laura examines highly productive people who—despite their commitments, obligations, and successful enterprises—feel like they have abundant time. Plenty of people get tons done but still feel frustrated with how they’re spending their time. The people in Off the Clock feel like they have all the time in the world, and Laura probes what exactly they’re doing that causes them to feel that way.
My biggest takeaway from the book, in my own words, is this: hurrying makes you feel hurried. Scooting out five minutes early—of exercise class or anywhere else—to rush off to the next thing doesn’t expand my time, it makes me feel rushed, and I hate feeling rushed.
With this in mind, I’ve been thinking lately about keeping my commitments to be places—not because I’m kind or considerate or conscientious, although I’d like to believe I am these things—but because I already made the commitment to myself. I don’t gain anything by rushing in late because I was lingering at the last thing (trying to do just one more thing, again), or jet out early for five extra minutes. These things do not bring me life, they don’t enable me to get more done. They make me feel harried.
(And that’s before we consider the decision fatigue involved in constantly renegotiating my scheduling decisions on the fly!)
I absolutely don’t begrudge my fellow class members their extra five minutes. There will surely be a day when I will need to do the same—to make an early meeting, or meet a contractor, or get a kid to school early.
But as a constant, corner-cutting time-management posture? I’m done. Hurrying doesn’t help, it just makes me feel hurried. Don’t overthink it, Anne, you decided to be here. So be here.
How do you feel about staying in the room? I would love to hear if you ever struggle with this time-management stuff, and what strategies or self-talk you employ to manage your time (and yourself.)
P.S. 3 time management rules I wish I learned ten years ago, and 7 ways I’m minimizing decision fatigue in my daily life. Want more books on the subject? Try these 15 inspiring and practical books to help you achieve your New Year’s resolutions.
Audio bonus: Laura joins me to talk about how to make this your best reading year yet in episode 112 of What Should I Read Next. We cover how to carve out more reading time, a new perspective on free time, bucket list books, and more. Listen wherever you get your podcasts or click here to listen on the site.