Here’s a Thought: Leave a Buffer

I grew up with a father who believed if you weren’t 10 minutes early to an appointment, you were late.

When I headed out into the world I carried this belief with me. In the four years of my undergraduate degree, I was never late for a single 8:30 AM class (which I had almost every day). Usually, I was one of the first to arrive – 10 minutes early.

Then I had kids.

Suddenly there were naps to contend with and the inevitable last-minute diaper or outfit change. Also, with a never-ending list of to-do’s, I felt I couldn’t justify the luxury of wasting precious minutes by arriving somewhere ahead of time.

I am rarely late. But I am also rarely early. This wouldn’t be a problem if I didn’t constantly feel anxious that I will be late.

While I still feel pulled in 30 directions most days, I can admit this “under the wire” arrival has simply become a habit. I’m no longer contending with outfit changes or blow-outs. And, even worse, I often plan for it.

For example, I’ll schedule a playdate for 3:00, even though the afternoon school bus drop-off is at 2:50 and it’s a 10-minute drive…under perfect traffic conditions. With that planning, there is no way to avoid arriving on time – at best – or late (well, aside from driving over the speed limit, which of course I’d never do. Hem hem.)

So I’m trying to arrange more buffer into my life.

If the kids are scheduled to come out of quiet time at 2:30, I shouldn’t work on a challenging project until 2:29. Stopping at 2:20 to breath, read a book, or just light a candle and prepare for the onslaught of snack requests and sibling rivalries really helps.

Have a doctors appointment and it takes 30 minutes to get to the clinic? You should plan to leave leave more than 30 minutes before. Preferably more than 31 minutes before, too.

Have a Zoom meeting? Think about making sure to use the washroom, brush the spinach out of your teeth and have the meeting notes all ready so you can log on a few minutes before it’s scheduled to start. After all this time, there are inevitably technical glitches.

Things take longer than expected: kids forget bookbags, icy roads slow us down, computers freeze. Adding in a little buffer can go a long way.

Go ahead. Try it.

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