10 September 2009

Don't Do That One Last Thing!

We fit broadly into one of two styles when it comes to processing time – we’re either in-time or through-time.The in-timers, bless their socks, are great at being fully present, totally in the moment (which is why this style is called in-time, not because they’re punctual!), but challenged at getting places or completing tasks on time. For them, it seems efficient to fit in ‘one more thing’ – to get somewhere early is to waste time. You’d wonder why the stress they suffer doesn’t change their behaviour – but no. They seem to suffer permanent memory loss on the topic. And most of it is caused because of that ‘one more thing’ they squeezed in!Through-timers, on the other hand, are more objective; able to detach, to see themselves outside of the events they’re involved in. They seem to be effortlessly punctual. Their ability to easily see ‘through’ or along a time continuum makes it automatic for them to estimate how long they’ll need for any activity.

For each style, their strength is also their weakness. And opposites often attract – driving each other nuts until they learn to play to their strengths and support the other’s weakness.

The in-timer’s skill is at being fully present and focused on what they’re doing. Their downside is that it’s hard to extract themselves and forward plan. It can be done – I’m one, but I can never completely relax on it. Punctuality doesn’t come naturally to me. (I reward myself for good behaviour now and then by reverting to type when it doesn’t matter!)

The through-timer’s strength is their ability to detach, keep focused on the ‘main’ thing, to be aware of the passage of time and its consequences. On the other hand, this same skill can cause them to be seen as abrupt and distant. They have to work harder to ensure that they’re not perceived as disinterested. And through-timers can suffer just as much stress as their in-time buddies – because of the pressure they start to apply, on themselves as well as everyone around, when they perceive that it’s time to start moving.

For the in-timers, here are four useful strategies.

1. As the title of this article suggests – don’t do the ‘one last thing’. Have you ever noticed that this is the task that will make you late?

2. Another useful technique is to start with the end in mind. Count back approximately how many minutes you need for each step of the way, until you arrive at the beginning. Typically you’ll go, ‘That’s ridiculously early. I’ll be sitting around waiting!‘ You won’t, you know. You’ll just be less stressed. But always take a useful task to do on arrival, just in case.

3. At the beginning of the day get ready first for everything you’ll be doing that day – and then do the ‘other‘ things.

4. Once you’re on the road, get to your destination before you stop for breaks. Find the place you’re heading to, and then have the coffee or do the little fill-in tasks.

As I mentioned above, I am naturally an in-timer. And even in my early days of being a time management specialist I still sometimes tripped over myself.

I was booked to run an after-school programme for the staff of a city school, in a suburb I didn’t know very well. I set out in plenty of time, crossed the harbour bridge, and thinking I was only five minutes away from the school, parked beside the harbour to enjoy the spare 15 minutes I thought I had. Then, relaxed and rested, I headed off. The sense of peace and tranquillity didn’t last long! Imagine my dismay as I crawled through an unfamiliar long skinny suburb to the far end, hampered by the afternoon discharge of dawdling chattering children from five other schools, and every mother and child in the city slowly meandering their way to the major shopping centre just along the road.

Red faced, stressed out and acutely embarrassed, I arrived at my destination – to find a roomful of teachers waiting for me.

It’s not a real good look to be late for your own time management course!

2 thoughts on “Don't Do That One Last Thing!”

  1. Robyn Pearce says:

    Thanks to Rebecca Pennell for giving me permission to post her response to the latest article.

    Hi Robyn,

    I love your article “Don’t Do That One Last Thing”. You’ll not be surprised then to find that I am an In-Timer – and I leave home late every day and leave work late every day… my husband thinks I’m overworked by the company, but in fact I just learned that I’m overworking myself! You’d think that when the clock goes past home time that I’d pack up – but I can always fit in one more thing…

    I’m late nearly everywhere I go – even if only by a few minutes. On the occasions my husband has made me leave far earlier than I’d ever plan to leave myself, I’ve taken a book to read or something to do to fill in all the spare time that I have when I arrive (especially because I can’t see the point in being so early). Surprisingly (I’m the only one surprised) I never have time to read the book as we arrive in a timely fashion, with not too much time to spare and are usually welcomed in early, get a good seat or are thoroughly pleased we turned up at the time we did. And yet I don’t learn!

    Well I will endeavour to change this from today onwards, starting with my finish time :-)

  2. Greet work there. RSS on this blog.

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