Get Some %*&^ing Control Over Your Life
Memo to certain members of the human race: Very few of your time management problems are unexpected catastrophes.
I know that things come up — broken cars, sick family members, the boss commands your presence at a reception or some damn thing. You have to cancel, pretty late in the day, and I can be remarkably forgiving about that. Or an important phone call — something about a will, or a lab test — comes in as you’re leaving the house and you find it impossible to be on time for your bodywork appointment without speeding, which I would rather you not do.
But that is flukiness. Please do not expect me to believe you have no choice other than to live in a constant state of emergency.
The office nudnik does not waylay you every time you are already late for your appointment with questions that must be answered right now — unless you have given him permission to do that, by failing to cut conversation short, by not reminding him that you have a schedule to keep like everyone else. The traffic is not always worse than you could have possibly expected. And if your sister has dumped her kids on you without warning for the fourth or fifth time, it is time to have a family conversation.
Probably 90% of the people who come to me have their schedule under control, as much as anyone ever does. And then there are the others.
I once had a grown woman, a grown woman, who owned some sort of design business and lived on an income tier I can never hope to occupy, burst into tears in my office when I asked what we could do to get her to her appointment on time. This happened after the third time she showed up half an hour late with a story about some contractor — we’re talking about the people putting in her kitchen — who wanted to talk out a problem with her, and cutting them off would have been rude, and this and that. Should I simply write down her appointment for a half hour before I needed her to be there in order not to push the appointment following? Was she willing to pay me for an hour and get a half hour’s work every time? What should our agreement be? A few days later she called and said it was just “too much pressure” to have to be on time.
The cleft stick of this situation, for me, is that some of the people who are perpetually at the mercy of chaotic forces — to hear them tell it — are people I like, people I would want to see more of. Given a choice between spending an hour with someone who is dull and vapid (or, worse, vents social observations to the right of Genghis Khan, taking for granted that I share them) and spending it with a person who is fifteen minutes late and excites my interest, liking and empathy, it’s a no-brainer. Except. I have to make a living. I have to charge when people have an appointment on the books for two weeks, then bail at the last minute because they agreed (at the next to last minute) to give someone a ride to a town in the next state and didn’t get on the road soon enough. And I really don’t enjoy asking for money when I didn’t do anything except hang up the phone and count slowly to ten while vicariously breaking the necks of towel rolls.
I love some of you madly, I really do. And if you want to let other people jerk you halfway across the face of the earth on your own time, I regret it but that’s your choice. Just please don’t make it my problem.