One sunny morning last summer, I found myself in a big hurry to leave my house.
I had an appointment with myself at the coffee shop to write, and I was determined to arrive before the lunch rush. Like a cat chasing a laser pointer, I darted around collecting this and that. As I raced up the stairs to get one last thing, I could feel my heart pumping and the unpleasant buzz of adrenaline coursing through my limbs.
But it wasn’t until I stepped out of my car at the coffee shop that I realized just how hurried I had been. In my push to leave, I’d inadvertently slipped on, and worn out of the house, my garden slippers—unattractive slip-ons that I haven’t worn in public for years.
The truth? When I saw my footwear, I considered going home to get the shoes that coordinated with my outfit. I resisted that urge, but this little episode made me realize that I needed to seriously re-evaluate how I do my mornings when I’m going out of the house.
So, when I finally settled in at the coffee shop, I spent some time examining my morning routine and crafting a more peace-producing plan.
Here’s what I came up with:
1. I reminded myself of why it matters. I was hurried and flustered when I left the house. So what? I asked. Why should I bother changing this pattern? Well, for one, I knew I’d feel better. Calmer, less stressed, serene. I noted that I would also save time and be more efficient by not running up and down the stairs grabbing last minute items. I wouldn’t forget important things, like my wallet (that happened a few weeks prior to this particular morning). And last but not least, I wouldn’t wear ugly shoes.
2. I created a mental image of what I want to happen. I pictured myself walking (as opposed to running like I’m being chased by banshees) tranquilly out of the house, cool and collected.
3. I asked, “What did I actually do this morning?” I made a list and came up with this: opened windows, exercised, ate, took my vitamins, fed the cats, read the paper online, printed a draft of my article, filed my nails, showered, dressed.
4. I sorted the list into necessary and unnecessary tasks. I identified four things that I could have done at another time: grooming my nails, printing my article, reading the paper, and opening /closing windows were all not necessary that morning. Postponing them would have saved me 15-20 minutes. I also identified other tasks that sometimes slowed my exit, such as answering the phone or texts, ironing, checking email and washing my breakfast dishes. Granted, sometimes these things must be done for one reason or another. But usually they can be saved for a more appropriate time.
5. I reminded myself of what’s worked before. I actually had a pretty decent routine during the years I worked in my counseling office, and the number one key that helped me have a smooth morning was preparing as much as possible the night before. This included things like
o planning my outfit
o fixing snacks/lunch (slicing apples, filling my water bottle, etc.),
o setting out my vitamins and supplements
o putting things I need in or near my purse or a tote bag (e.g. library books or writing notebooks)
6. I generated a more realistic estimate of how long it actually takes me to leave the house. I recognized that even when I have things set out beforehand, it still takes me at least 10 minutes to corral everything, slip on my coat and shoes, get my keys and walk to the car. Inevitably, there’s something I remember last minute, like double-checking that the curling iron is off. Factoring an additional 10-15 minutes into my get-ready-and-go time ensures that I have enough time to do everything I need to do and arrive at my destination promptly.
7. I decided to start setting an alarm on my phone to alert me when I need to start gathering my things. So, if I need to leave at 10:00 to get to my appointment by 10:20, I would set the alarm for 9:45 as my signal to get up, gather, and get out.
8. I wrote down a new plan of action incorporating all the elements listed above. I also wrote a synopsis of the plan on a sticky note and tacked it to my mirror as a visual reminder.
As I put my new plan into action, I noticed a huge difference on the mornings I have to leave the house. The best part is avoiding that terrible rushed and frazzled feeling that too often accompanies me out the door and down the driveway.
Since initiating my plan, I've also gleaned one more insight, from which I distilled this mantra: If you’re running early, run early.
Part of my problem on that garden-shoe morning stemmed not from not having enough time, but from actually having more than enough time, which led me to think I could fit in more than I realistically could. Those unnecessary tasks I listed in #3 that I could have eliminated? I chose to do them because I felt like I had extra time. In reality, I underestimated how long those actions would take, which tipped me from running early to running late. So, I have determined that if I’m running early and think it’d be a good time to file my nails, I will keep my commitment to save unnecessary tasks for another time.
I confess that there are still days when I leave the house in a flurry. But when I do follow my plan, I relish being able to walk calmly to my car, collected and composed.
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