The van in front of me was moving slowly. I finally saw that the vehicle in front of the van was a pickup with a trailerload of lumber and wallboard. We all had to take a detour. At the time the detour took us back to the road I wanted, I rejoiced that the van went straight. I was annoyed, however, when I saw that the trailer was on MY route.
I was annoyed because I was approximately 10 minutes into my 25 minute drive and was 1 minute from the scheduled arrival time.
And I realized that it wasn’t the pickup driver’s fault. It wasn’t the road crew’s fault. It wasn’t the fault of the person who called asking for attention right at the time I should have left. It wasn’t the fault of the person who gave me proofreading that I didn’t look at until 2 minutes after the time I should have left. It wasn’t the fault of the person who asked to talk with me an hour before departure time when I said, “let’s go look at the HVAC”. It also wasn’t his fault when I said, “Get me a ladder. Let’s try moving that.” It wasn’t the fault of the people whose posts I read on Google Reader, or the 5 minutes I spent on twitter. It wasn’t the fault of the people who have been wanting wifi in our building that I chose to spend time on testing using a router as an access point. It wasn’t the fault of any of the people I talked with this morning, or the people I didn’t.
I chose take on each of those unscheduled projects, conversations, fieldtrips, and on-line activities. I spent several blocks of 15 minutes this morning in ways I didn’t have to.
As a result, I spent a 25 minute car ride being very annoyed. At myself.
I understand that there are often unavoidable reasons for being late. I understand that you cannot leave early enough for every possible road block. But I am also convinced, by my own behavior this morning, that I could have made sure I was at that conversation on time.
What makes this so convicting is that I read Seth Godin’s post about spending the next couple weeks working hard to finish projects. In “like your hair is on fire” Seth suggests that we take these last two weeks of August and, rather than slacking off at the end of summer, work hard on projects that must get done. Pretend that we are out of reach on vacation and put the focus on success.
I have a couple of those projects. I had decided to push hard this week. My lunch was related to those projects. And rather than working like my hair was on fire, I ran around in circles.
And now I’ve wasted fifteen more minutes telling you about my lack of focus.
But maybe you are like me. Maybe you say yes to way too many things. I’m not talking about huge project, but 15-minute distractions on any given day. And maybe, like me, you are tired of creating your own lateness.
So join me in spending the next 15 minutes making the (short) list of (achievable) things that you will say “yes” to for the rest of the day. And then get ready to say “no”.