The discipline of staying in the room

The discipline of staying in the room

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.

26 comments | Comment

26 comments

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  1. Cassie says:

    Oh my goodness, yes! My mantra all year has been. You are not in a hurry. It’s the rushed feeling that takes the joy out of it, but it sure is a struggle sometimes to think that there is plenty of time and just slow down.

  2. Laura says:

    I love this, “hurrying makes you feel hurried”. I’m also so excited to hear that Laura has a new book coming out. “I Know How She Does It” really shifted my mindset in terms of how I think about work/life balance and managing my time.

  3. Shannon says:

    Adding this to my list for sure but am curious if you’d write more about this statement “And that’s before we consider the decision fatigue involved in constantly renegotiating my scheduling decisions on the fly!” I find that I’m constantly changing my schedule to accommodate other people or things that come up and am trying to find a better rhythm – not necessarily a rigid schedule but something with space for surprises. I never want to be that person who is too busy for a friend but a girl has to get her own stuff done too!

  4. Diane says:

    Rushing is underlying turbulence that steals peace.
    I have to chuckle wondering what my neighbors thought of us rushing to church years ago.
    Great article….looking forward to Laura’s book. Thanks Anne

  5. Annie says:

    I also like to remind myself to not “rush” or “wish” through the week to get to the weekend! All of our days are a gift… even a yucky Monday morning, right?

  6. Amy says:

    “hurrying makes you feel hurried”…..this could be life changing if I will allow it to be. I’m going to put this on my phone so I see it all the time!

  7. Miranda says:

    Guilty! I’m always trying to squeeze in one more thing. Lately, I have been trying to just focus on one thing at a time. Thank you for these helpful thoughts!

  8. Heather says:

    I don’t have any real tips, but as a fellow Enneagram 9, I am consistently in awe of your ability to maintain your momentum and just get stuff done. Curious if you are a 1 wing?
    I find that I rarely try to squeeze in ‘one more thing’ because it’s just easier to not. Still figuring out if I am guarding my time or just being lazy. 😉

  9. Traci says:

    One thing I use to keep myself present is I write down three things I have to get done each day. I only have to get those three things done. If I get them done early and work other things in there, that’s great, but I’ll have a successful day if I just get those things accomplished. Three is a realistic number of things to do, rather than staring at a massive to do list. I never thought about how this helped to not “rush” through things until I read this article, but it definitely does.

  10. Teresa says:

    I worked in a medical office. The scheduler would get backed up and have several people waiting. She never hurried with them. She said hurrying didn’t get them out any faster, but it did stress them. If she remained calm, they also remained calm and didn’t complain about the wait.

  11. Janean says:

    This is such a valuable reminder for me. I’m a hardcore planner, so my brain is always thinking ahead, often at the expense of the moment. This trait serves me well for a unique aspect of my mom-life, but I’m often unaware of how it steels some of my joy. See if you can catch the live story by @nancyray on Instagram today, because she was talking about how hustling is really a form of laziness. She was quoting her business coach @thegrahamcochrane, but her comments were interesting. When we hustle, we’re really just doing so because we’ve failed to plan and we’re stealing from the moment to make up for it. I loved this because it encapsulates your point about being present in addition to the value of planning your time so that you CAN be present. After all, you didn’t get to that 6am class because you didn’t plan to do so! And seriously, major props for that! I’m impressed. I think many of us would love a post on how you made that happen if you’re not naturally one of those pop out of bed morning people. If you are, well then, I’ve found the first thing I don’t like about you 😉😂😍

  12. Casey says:

    I was struck by this same realization last week while reading Anna Karenina. Here is an excerpt from when we first meet her husband:
    “Every minute of Alexey Alexandrovich’s life was portioned out and occupied. And to make time to get through all that lay before him every day, he adhered to the strictest punctuality. “Unhasting and unresting,” was his motto.”

  13. Gwyn says:

    Goodness this certainly struck me….my problem is I have all the time every day but can’t seem to get in a routine! Until a few months ago I have always had someone come bring on me rather it be raising my kids or helping with my grands. My husband recently retired so we are navigating through our extra time on our hands. I have many hobbies including reading I love to do I just can’t seem to make the time needed for them! Maybe this book can help me with my “extra” time!

  14. Jen says:

    Posts like this are why I check your blog every day. It’s the simple things that are profound and life changing and this is one of those things. And your comment about decision fatigue caused by changing your schedule all day is epic. I’m very methodical and scheduled but I’m trying to be more flexible because you know, life happens. But it exhaust me every time. Checking out the book you mentioned by Laura and another one she wrote that a commenter mentioned!

  15. Eva says:

    This completely resonates with me. I’m always a last minute, waiting-for-inspiration kind of person, and that often leaves me rushing around to finish things. But I have noticed that whenever I slow everything down – really read what I’m looking at, stop and think about what I’m trying to say, etc – I feel like I get much more done and am generally happier. I really find it annoying that people talk about how busy they are and all of that, which can be fine, but mostly it’s used as a way to brag about how important they are. I think it’s important to slow down, be where you are, practice focus and patience, and things will feel more enjoyable. It’s hard to calm life, considering how many things are pulling us in every direction, but it’s so important for our mental health.

    Eva | http://www.shessobright.com

  16. Cheryl Weaver says:

    I find I scoot out because I don’t know anyone, or no one is talking to me, etc. all me’s and I’s – rather selfish. If I don’t know anyone more reason to stay. If no one is speaking to me more reason to speak to someone in the same boat. I need to work on that.

  17. So well said. I went from working a stressful full-time job with two kids to staying at home with three kids. Now that I’m no longer working, I still feel as though I never have enough time. I have to stop sometimes and realize that I do have plenty of time! Thanks for the reminder!

  18. Peggy says:

    One of my favorite posts. Thanks for sharing this simple truth Anne. I am encouraged to keep this in mind as freedom DOES appear when I practice presence.

  19. When our child was born about three years ago, I came to that realization that reducing my stress had more to do with allowing myself, and creating, the luxury of a little extra time for each obligation than rushing to squeeze everything into a day. Adjusting that has produced an amazing change to my outlook on life and stress levels. Of course it also depends on being reasonable in the number of commitments we take on 🙂

  20. Karen Floyd Shepherd says:

    Dear Anne, thank you for this post. It is so hard not to give in to the frantic hurry of day to day life. But we so desperately need to have time to breathe and tune in to the moment. Thank you for your reminders that we need to breathe and be.

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