Good time management can help most of us avoid a lot of stress. Setting goals, planning out the day ahead of time, and working during our most high-energy hours can lead to greater productivity, less time pressure and a calmer life. Sometimes, though, it’s best to let serendipity win out over planning.
Case in point: yesterday was a gorgeous day. It was one of those days where the sky is a completely cloudless, brilliant blue. The day was warm, but the humidity was low. It was the best day we had had, or were going to have, this entire week.
So when my friend said to me after a morning yoga class, “What are you doing today? Let’s get something to eat and then take a long walk – it’s so beautiful today!” I barely hesitated. It’s true that thoughts of my to-do list, and the vague commitments I had for the day did cross my mind. But I quickly realized that there was nothing so pressing that it couldn’t be done later in the day, or even the next day.
The word “serendipity” is a difficult one to define and translate, but it essentially means discovering something by accident while looking for something else, or finding something wonderful when we weren’t looking for it at all. It’s possible to let serendipity play a role in daily time management, just by being aware of, and open to, the opportunities and beautiful moments that might turn up in the course of the day. Michael Olpin and Margie Hesson, in their text on stress management, suggest ‘split-page scheduling’ – dividing your planner page with a line down the middle, listing your plans, activities and appointments down the left side, and leaving the right side blank until the end of the day. Then you use the right side to record the unpredicted moments that arose during the day, such as “a new acquaintance, a fresh idea, a child’s question, an unexpected opportunity, a friend’s need, a chance meeting, a beautiful sunset.”
By opening ourselves to a certain amount of spontaneity in the day, we have the possibility of becoming more creative, experiencing life more fully, and even choosing to take new directions. We allow ourselves to enjoy the journey more, while not losing sight of the destination.
Yesterday, I spent a few lovely hours with my friend, walking and talking. We learned more about each other, enjoyed the fresh air and exercise, and came home hungry and tired. Even with my sore feet (lesson learned: don’t walk 4 miles in flip-flops), I still felt invigorated when I got home. I was able to get some of my work done, I enjoyed the process of preparing dinner more than usual, and I slept well. It felt like a day well-lived.
Look to this day!
For it is life, the very life of life.
In its brief course
Lie all the verities and realities of your existence:
The bliss of growth;
The glory of action;
The splendor of achievement;
For yesterday is but a dream,
And tomorrow is only a vision;
But today, well lived, makes every yesterday a dream of happiness,
And every tomorrow a vision of hope.
Look well, therefore, to this day!
“Kalidasa,” ancient Sanskrit poem