Speed Bumps and Whitespace: Why they Matter

I used to be late to everything

I mean ALL the time. When I wasn’t late, I was scurrying in at the very last minute. I was constantly in a state of busyness – rushing from one thing to the next, and totally feeling bad about it. I was proud that I got so much done, but I hated that I felt so rushed all the time. I couldn’t even fathom how people could be so calm, cool and collected all the time. Calm, early arrivals were not my MO.

Then I had an epiphany

One day, after many years of beating myself up about this issue, I realized what the problem was. It was ridiculously obvious, but had completely escaped me until that moment.

I was late because I was trying to do too much, trying to squeeze as much out of every second that I could. In my attempt to get ALL THE THINGS done in the least amount of time, I was setting myself up for failure.

My days were jam-packed. If I had 15 minutes before I had to be somewhere, I’d swing by the bank to make a deposit or stop to get gas first. Sometimes I’d try to do both. Why not? Fifteen minutes is plenty of time to pump gas and run one block over to the ATM…right?

Yes, in theory, but it didn’t always work that way. 

I hadn’t allowed for speed bumps and whitespace

I was multitasking like mad and being highly productive (and efficient, or so I thought). I had a well-oiled machine, but if just one thing took longer than expected, then the house of cards would fall.

Things rarely worked out quite the way I planned

I often underestimated how long it took do do something. Pumping gas might just take five minutes, but if you have to wait for the pump it will take 10. I didn’t account for slow drivers, long lines at the bank, or traffic delays. Those were the speed bumps in my plan, and they irritated the crap out of me. Since I over-filled every single minute, I was always trying to navigate around the speed bumps and getting frustrated when I couldn’t avoid them.

Changing my mindset was the key

I don’t remember exactly when or how the shift changed, but eventually, I wised up. I got tired of rushing and learned how to plan ahead and give myself some buffer time. Only then did I realize how nice it is to arrive early and not have to rush. It was freeing. Giving myself whitespace meant that if everything went as planned, I would get to my destination early enough to take a few deep breaths and collect myself. If there were a few small delays, I was still comfortably on time.

These days I arrive at least 10 minutes early. I still get annoyed with slow drivers and long lines, but I’m no longer stressed out about them.

Here are three ways add whitespace to your life

1) If you have to get somewhere in the morning, prepare the night before. Plan what you’re going to wear and pack your bag ahead of time.

2) If you have a virtual appointment that doesn’t require you to go anywhere, clear off your desk, find your headphones, close your door, and check your technology at least 15 minutes before your call. Then, if there are any glitches in your plan, you have time to fix them and not be flustered when your meeting begins.

3) Avoid scheduling things too close to each other. After an appointment, give yourself plenty of time to regroup and prepare for the next one. Maybe you need to step outside and get some air, or maybe you have to physically get to the next appointment and you want to leave yourself more time than you think you’ll need to get there.

Those are just three simple things that you can do, but will make a massive difference in how you feel. Think of it as an experiment. Try something one day, then tweak it to work for you.

Leave room in your day for speed bumps and whitespace. It’s a game-changer. 

Why you're always late, and what to do about it. Why trying to get more done in less time is the wrong approach.

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