Ever have those days where you look at the calendar and immediately start praying to the scheduling gods that some of your meetings get canceled?
I don’t often feel that way – mostly because I’ve put in some *really* intentional work over the last few years to try and curb my pattern of overscheduling – but every once in a while it sneaks up on me. I felt that way recently when I was looking at the growing pile of sticky notes that complemented my already-too-long digital to-do list on my phone that was on top of what was already scheduled in my “to-do” spaces of time on my calendar. Yowza.
I call it my “Roadrunner feet” feeling – remember the Roadrunner and Wile E. Coyote cartoons? The Roadrunner gets that sort of blurry wheel looking thing when its feet get moving really fast – when my schedule gets overly full, that’s sort of the emotional equivalent of what I’m feeling. As the schedule got tighter and tighter, I started to feel that compression even in my physical body. My neck got stiff, the shoulders bunched up and crunched up, the tummy didn’t feel so great…
I noticed what was happening and turned to one of the first tools that I’ve developed – asking, “Do I REALLY have to do all of this?” Sometimes there’s leeway to be found that we may not notice until we question all of the things that have piled up in our schedule. Sometimes there’s not, and this was definitely a “not” kind of situation. Then I moved to my next tool, which is to ask for support outside of work to accommodate as much as possible. Of course, the Universe has a funny (read: not-actually-so-funny) sense of humor, and there wasn’t much of this available.
Ok, then. Time to buckle down and get through this.
On the third day of this exceptionally crazy timeframe, the scheduling heavens opened up and CANCELED A MEETING. I was sitting at my desk, somewhat bleary-eyed and waiting for the caffeine to kick in and make sure I wasn’t hallucinating. I had an unforeseen 2-hour block of time open in the afternoon! Cue the harps and angelic chorus!
When this happens for you – whether it’s hours apart or a few minutes before – it’s crucial to take a beat and think about how you want to use that time. Lack of intention is the executioner of maximizing these unexpectedly open times, and I am a world-class offender when it comes to this. When I’ve got my Roadrunner feet going, I don’t often slow down long enough to be really intentional about using that open time. I immediately fill it with “all the other things I need to get to”, or I work on projects that already have time scheduled elsewhere, but I don’t go and open that time up. Every ounce of freedom, breathing room, and unscheduled space becomes full to the brim, and there’s zero actual relief created by the time that had magically been gifted into the afternoon.
When the meeting gets canceled, what do you do? Next time this happens for you – whether it’s an actual meeting or just an unexpected block of time you have on your hands – think through what you need most out of that time. Sure, it may be productivity and work output. But also…it may be a slice of time for you to rest, tend to your emotional needs, refuel with something nutritional instead of rushed, send some lovely notes of gratitude to people in your sphere, or heck, friend- just sit in stillness and BREATHE. Yep. That’s an actual thing some people do. 🙂
Years ago, I was challenged by a Coach to intentionally schedule an unscheduled block of time. My assignment was to leave the block of time unscheduled, and when it arrived, take stock of what I wanted to do with the time and then give myself permission to do that. Truthfully, I didn’t do so hot that first time out of the gate. I dithered and dallied and overthought it completely while I was putting away laundry, “just getting a quick load of dishes started”, and responding to a few emails that I told myself were time sensitive. 45 minutes later I’d eaten up almost half my time! I ended up getting a latte and a pedicure, but it was a great experience in understanding how patterned I am to be busy for the sake of being busy and productive because that’s “just what I do.”
Now, I sometimes still fill those blocks of time with household chores, errands, emails, and other work, but I do it with intention. And that is what creates an entirely different experience. When that next window of time opens up for you, try pausing and being truly intentional about how you leverage the time. I have a feeling it will create a different experience for you, too!