On being early

13 May 2009

I’m punctuality challenged, as I’ve blogged about in the past. This is not a desirable quality in a professional organizer. Or anybody, really. I always try to do too much before getting myself out the door to the appointment.

On Monday morning, when I called my friend, the super organizer Aby Garvey to say that I would be late meeting her for coffee, we talked about the fact that we both actively avoid being early. We agreed that it feels like a literal waste of time to get somewhere early.

Then I recalled a conversation I had about a year ago with another super organizer, Jill Revitsky. Jill shared with me that she gives herself the gift of being 15 minutes early to appointments. That way, she avoids stressing out if she runs into traffic or other delays. When she arrives early, she either relaxes or brings along work. “The gift of being early.” I love that phrasing.

Yesterday, my aversion to being early could have cost me my life (or, worse someone else’s). That sounds melodramatic, but it’s true. I was on my way to give a talk to an employee group and I was running late, as usual. I was so intent on getting downtown, finding the building and finding parking, that I was just in my own world. I was already five minutes late when I spied the parking garage. For some reason, I thought that the street I was turning left onto was a one-way street. I turned into the far left lane of a two-way street. (I was going to be turning left at the next light.)

So there I was, driving on the wrong side of the street, like I was in Australia or something. I was so in my own gotta-get-there zone, I didn’t even figure it out when cars started coming toward me and had to swerve around me. It wasn’t until one honked that I figured out I was in the wrong. Luckily, it was just one block and I got out of there without a collision. But it shook me up.

That experience has given me a new perspective on being early. I’m going to try being intentionally early to avoid the stress of running late. I’ll take along my Autofocus notebook so I always have something to work on while I wait. I’m going to view being early as a gift, rather than a waste of time.

I got to put this new philosophy to the test this morning. I had a 9 a.m. appointment for my annual mammogram and left the house with plenty of time to get there. Traffic was light and it looked like I was going to be 15 minutes early. Old habits kicked in and I started thinking about where I might stop in order to make good use of that time. Then I let go of that thinking. I decided to just get there early. And a great thing happened. Stress vanished. It felt so good not to be rushed. And it actually felt nice to be early. Maybe I can get used to this!

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I wish I knew how to be comfortable being late. I am punctually challenged in that I MUST be on time. This is great for business. But it is a real problem arriving at parties when the invitation says it begins instead of the usual 15 minutes later. But because of my “problem” I carry a bunch of things to do in my car and purse like magazines, soduku, and my beloved ipod touch.

allison carter 05/13/2009 07:02 PM

Allison, we need to find the middle ground, don’t we? I’m not a really late person, just a little late, which is great for parties but not great for business. But now I’m going for early, for business anyway.

Thanks for your comment!

Janine Adams 05/14/2009 06:58 AM

This is so timely for me! Getting around Houston timely is a stresor to me! I am going to give myself this gift of 15 minutes and bring the books I am reading in the car. Thank you Janine!

Ellen Delap 05/14/2009 07:20 AM

Excellent, Ellen! I’ll post again about how my efforts to be early are going, but knowing you’re going to be doing this with me will make it easier for me.

Janine Adams 05/14/2009 07:39 AM

I love being early. I keep a basket with an ongoing knitting project in it, in my car at all times. Sometimes I add a book to the basket. I am so much less stressed! (although sometimes, when I do get there early and I can get in to the appointment early, I am a little miffed that I didn’t get my knitting time!)

Kris Van Allen 05/14/2009 09:52 AM

Kris, that’s a great idea! I can keep a knitting project in the car and that can be my reward for being early! I love it. Thanks for the inspiration.

Janine Adams 05/14/2009 10:00 AM

Very good brief and this post helped me alot. Say thank you I searching for your facts.

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About Janine

Janine Adams

Hello! I’m Janine Adams — a certified professional organizer based in St. Louis, and the creator of Peace of Mind Organizing®.

I love order, harmony + beauty, but I believe that the way that you feel about yourself and your home is what truly matters.

If you’re ready to de­clutter with a purpose and add more ease to your life, you’ve found the right blog — and you’ve found the right gal.

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