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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Hurry Up And Slow Down

When speaking of time management, people are always looking for ways to get things done faster. While it may seem counterintuitive, sometimes the best way to do things faster is to slow down.

I’m not talking about the metaphorical, “take time to smell the roses” kind of slow down. I mean to physically stop moving so fast.

 The Daily Rush

The other day, as I was bounding out of my car to get to my evening class, (coffee, laptop and books in tow,) I stopped myself.  Why in the world was I racing as though trying to catch a train? I wasn’t late, and the classroom wasn’t going anywhere without me.

I realized that I do this a lot. I go quickly up the stairs to my office, I switch lanes frequently in traffic trying to find the fastest one, and I get frustrated trying to navigate past “slow moving” people while running errands. I know I’m not the only one who lives my day in one giant rush.

We can tell ourselves that this haste is necessary to save time, but really, it’s not. The 5 seconds that you save by rushing to get somewhere are canceled out by the extra feeling of stress that rushing causes. There are three negative side effects of the stress of rushing:

1)      Sloppiness

2)      Forgetfulness

3)      Un-focused work

Move Purposefully

Instead of rushing around, slow down and embrace the calm notion that you’ll still get everything done today without the need to hurry from place to place. Don’t think of it as moving slowly. Think of it as moving purposefully. You have goals for your day and you’re not going to dawdle, but your daily life shouldn’t be akin to the 50-yard dash.

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Photo Credit: Michelle Meiklejohn