The Happiness Project

A chronicle of my attempts to test-drive every tip, principle and scientific study that promotes happiness

Take Your Time. Especially When You’re in a Hurry.

When you're in a hurry, take your time.

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A few weeks ago, I posted Eight excellent tips for living that my parents gave me. Soon after, I ran into a friend who said, “I loved the tips your parents gave you. My mother had a great one, too. She always said, ‘When you’re in a hurry, take your time.’”

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I thought this sounded like great advice, and now I’m absolutely convinced. Yesterday, as I was rushing to leave my apartment, I ran through the kitchen and pulled out a container of yogurt to gulp down before I left. (I had broken my resolution “Don’t let myself get too hungry.")

Because I was hurrying, I wasn’t careful about pulling out the yogurt, and I knocked over a plastic container of tapioca pudding my husband had left on the shelf. The container fell out, exploded, and tapioca pudding flew all over my shoe, all over the kitchen floor, and splattered back up into the refrigerator. It took me several trips with a sponge to get everything cleaned up. My shoe may never fully recover.

If I hadn’t been in such a hurry, I would have left my apartment much faster.

Looking back, I realize how much hurrying slows me down. I forget to bring my Filofax if I leave in a rush. My husband lost his wallet in a cab because he was running late. Hurrying makes me forget things, drop things, mess up.

I find with email, too, if I have a “Faster, faster, faster!” frame of mind, I answer too quickly. I don’t address every issue raised in the email. I don’t attend carefully enough to who is sending it. I have trouble, later, remembering the exchange. I delete emails I should keep. In the end, rushing consumes more time.

Of course, I don’t want to poke along, either. I’m reminded of Miyamoto Musashi’s observation from A Book of Five Rings: “Speed is not part of the true Way of strategy. Speed implies that things seem fast or slow, according to whether or not they are in rhythm. Whatever the Way, the master of strategy does not appear fast….Of course, slowness is bad. Really skillful people never get out of time, and are always deliberate, and never appear busy.”

So now when I feel myself rushing, I’m going to remind myself, “Wait, I’m in a hurry -- I need to take my time.” Again, the elusive (for me) but ever-important quality of mindfulness!

What about you? Have you found that it helps to take your time when you’re in a hurry?

* Yes, I love time-lapse photography of nature, and here’s a beautiful sunset over a lake. I love it, but it makes me melancholy too, in a pleasant way. I think there’s a Japanese word for that – for the bittersweet beauty of time passing. Anyone know it?

* I'm trying to figure out the level of interest for a book tour. If I did a book event in your town, and you'd come, it would be very helpful if you'd either post a comment below or drop me an email at grubin[at]gretchenrubin[dot com]. (Sorry about the weird format – trying to thwart spammers). Just write "tour" in the subject line, and be sure to include the name of your city! Thanks very much to all the people who already answered; the information is enormously helpful.

Gretchen Rubin is the author of The Happiness Project, a book and a blog about her adventures learning to be happier.

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