Hurry Up And Wait

time management boredEverything I know about life I learned in my college marching band…

OK, that’s not entirely true, but it makes for a good opening. (Spare your “one time at band camp comments. I’ve heard them all. Twice.) In band, we had a saying: “Hurry up and wait.” It was amusing because every time we had a performance, the staff ran around urgently telling people to get ready quickly…only to sit around for 45 minutes afterwards while we waited for the performance to start. I’ve had this phrase on my mind a lot lately as I’ve thought about the overall pace of my day. Here is what I think it means to me now…

My Mentality

I realized that I live by the “hurry up and wait” mentality. It’s better to be 20 minutes early than 1 minute late. That philosophy has served me well, however, I’m realizing that it can be taken to the extreme.

“It’s better to be 20 minutes early than 1 minute late” only matters when there is a consequence for being late. When being late means missing an important deadline, an airplane, or your best friend’s wedding…rushing to be early matters. However, when being late is not a problem, rushing just for the sake of rushing is stressful.

Does Everything Need a Deadline?

I realized that I do this. Sometimes I set arbitrary deadlines for myself because that’s how I operate best. Then I hurry hurry hurry to meet the deadline, when in reality, being a few minutes (hours, days, etc…) late wouldn’t really matter. I end up stressing myself for no good reason.

Do you do this too? I talk about how setting your own deadlines can be a good motivator, and that’s true, but I’m going to be careful about what types of tasks I set deadlines for.

Not everything needs to be done in a hurry. This week, I’m going to try to be better about slowing down. Or next week. Whenever I get around to it.

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Why Does Time Move Faster as We Get Older?

Time Management FlowerThis weekend, while sitting around watching football with friends, we started talking about how life seemed to move so much slower when we were little (the Oregon Ducks were dismantling Tennessee, so the game had become pretty uninteresting at this point.) Do you remember waiting for your 5th birthday to arrive? Or the summer before you started 1st grade? Didn’t it seem like forever? Why is that? Never fear. I turned to NPR to figure out the “why” and this blog will provide the “so what.”

One Theory

A neuroscientist explained to NPR that one theory of why time moves faster later in life is that when we’re young, we experience a lot of “firsts.” First day of school, first bike ride, first trip to the beach, etc…During these experiences, you soak up every last detail — the sights, the smells, the sounds — because everything is new. You have no prior experience to compare anything to.

Then, as we accumulate a lot of the same experiences, they all start to run together. We stop noticing details. We become heavily entrenched in our routines.

Be An Observer

So how do we stop this? How do we put the brakes on the runaway train? Be an observer. Be a “notice-er.” When you walk outside, take a second to observe how the sun feels on your skin. As you take a sip of coffee, take a moment to observe how good it smells. This is not to say you should meander through life slowly gazing at everything you pass. No, let’s be honest, you have to get stuff done too, but being a more careful observer can help bring back some of the novelty to your life’s experiences.

And don’t put too much pressure on yourself to appreciate just the big moments. I remember during my first trip to Disney World a few years ago, I kept thinking, “Are you appreciating this right now, Emily? Like, really appreciating it? Because you won’t be back here for a while. Appreciate harder.” It’s so much pressure! Being a careful observer will help you appreciate the little things and make valuing your life’s experiences a habit.

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This Frog is a Multitasker. Are you?

time management multitaskerThis week I read an article explaining how a certain breed of frog looks for multitasking when selecting its mate. Oh how similar we are to our amphibian friends in our obsession with doing more than one thing at a time!

The truth is, while multitasking sounds important and necessary, we need to separate what is possible and productive from what is eroding the quality of our work. Try these tips to “toad-ally” revamp your approach to multitasking (Ouch. That pun hurt. You’re welcome.)

1. Don’t kid yourself

I can hold a coffee and my computer, conduct a conference call, eat a sandwich, and roll a suitcase through the airport…for about 5 seconds before I fall flat on my face in a puddle of nonfat double shot mocha. Multitasking might be possible, at least for a little bit, but eventually it produces lower quality, distracted work, which can lead to oversight and disaster. Don’t convince yourself that your constant multitasking is producing the same results as focused work.

2. Do many things, but let them take their turn

Just because you fill many different roles and responsibilities, doesn’t mean you have to attend to them all at one time. Sometimes people say, “I have to multitask, I’m constantly juggling multiple projects at once.” Great! But that doesn’t mean you have to jump haphazardly from one to the next and attempt multiple different tasks at once. You can still maintain the appearance of a multitasker by hyper-focusing on one project at a time, even if it means tackling several projects in the same day.

3. Just because you can doesn’t mean you should

With the rise of smartphones, people essentially have a small computer in their pockets constantly, which makes multitasking seem much more feasible. Just because you can do two things at once, doesn’t mean it’s the most efficient, productive, and focused use of your time. Before you split your attention, ask yourself: “Am I doing two things because I must or because I can?”

In our on-the-go society, occasional multitasking is inevitable, but the more we strive for singular focus rather than split distraction, the better.

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