One of the best pieces of advice I ever read on the subject of time management was that while planning how much time it will take to complete a project, you should expect the unexpected and plan extra time to accommodate it.
Now those of you with children are probably rolling your eyes and saying, “Duh!” but apparently ignoring this rather obvious idea is not just my problem because the author (I think it was Tim Ferris, but I can’t swear to it) thought it worth including in his New York Times bestselling book.
It seems that there are quite a few of us who don’t give ourselves any more time than the barest minimum we calculate a project will take. We don’t ever expect that an accident or road construction will slow our progress across town (despite the ubiquity of those little orange cones). We never allow for an emergency trip to the dentist to fix a broken tooth, a friend who needs a trip to the doctor, a balky computer program, or even a really interesting article that takes an extra half hour to finish. Suddenly our carefully planned schedule is trashed.
My father was an Air Force officer and always modeled the behavior that if you’re not ten minutes early, you’re late. Unfortunately, I take after my mother, who was never early for anything if she could avoid it. Nevertheless, I have decided to embrace the chaos, to accept that it will make a hash of any too tightly scheduled plan. I will be realistic about how long tasks actually take, and all future schedules will include “slop over” time. I will accept Murphy’s Law and incorporate it into my itinerary. There’s no point in setting yourself up for failure from the outset.
Chaos happens. Control is an illusion.
Now I’m off to the dentist.