Minimalism A to Z: T Is for Time Cushions

Time Cushions

“If age teaches you anything, then one of its lessons is certainly not to hurry if you’re already late….”

– Sergei Lukyanenko

As I’ve mentioned before, minimalism isn’t only about managing our stuff. As minimalists, we also need to manage our time. Using time cushions allows us to live more calmly, greatly reducing the amount of stress in getting from one place to another and from one obligation to the next.

Note, I say “greatly reducing.” A few months ago I allotted 40 minutes for what’s normally a 20-minute drive. It took 90 minutes. Realistically, this is something we can’t plan for, and I’m sure you’ve been in similar situations. But under most circumstances, adding time cushions into your schedule will prevent anxiety, rushing around and tardiness.

“There cannot be a crisis next week. My schedule is already full.”

– Henry A. Kissinger

  • Always allow extra time for travel to appointments, in case of bad traffic, inability to find a parking spot, etc. If you arrive early, take a short walk or stop for a cup of coffee.
  • Don’t put things off to the last minute. What if your Internet goes down or the electricity goes out?
  • Expect appointments to run longer than you think. It’s easy to get into the trap of assuming your dental appointment, for example, takes only an hour, but what if they’re 30 minutes late getting you in? Or you need additional x-rays?
  • Calendar yourself to complete a project well before it’s due. Depending on the project, this may be the day before, or a week before.
  • Think about everything involved in the task. For instance, I have a tendency to think if the appointment is 10:30, and I’m allotting 30 minutes for travel, I should leave at 10:00. But this means actually driving away at 10:00, not gathering up items to go with me and putting on my shoes at 10:00.
  • Practice timing how long regular tasks actually take. This will help you make more accurate estimates in the future.

Do you use the concept of time cushions when scheduling?

4 thoughts on “Minimalism A to Z: T Is for Time Cushions

  1. I do use time cushions but never heard of them called that before. I grew up having it pounded into my head, metaphorically speaking, to always be punctual and to give myself enough time to never make another person wait for me. It’s something my children learned as well and continue to do as adults.

    • Thanks for sharing, Lois. I got the same training as a child and have worked to instill that value in my son – he’s slowly getting it, I think, but is one of those people who wants to learn everything the hard way.

  2. I’ve actually learned to reduce my husband’s time cushions in some cases. If we have 11:00 dental appointments he wants to leave at 10:00. Our dentists are 15 minutes away taking side streets instead of the freeway. That leaves me sitting in their waiting room getting nervous for 30 minutes by which time my stress level is through the roof. So now we leave 15 minutes later and I spend that extra 15 minutes visiting the restroom so I don’t get so nervous. You have to measure everything when deciding how much cushion to leave.

    • Wow, those are some big cushions! If for some reason I feel a big cushion is in order (near rush hour, say), I plan a place I can hang out for a bit other than the doctor’s office in case I do arrive early. The main location I’ve been going to for medical appointments has a Starbucks across the street and a Target very nearby, so I can do a little shopping if need be, or grab a cup of coffee or tea and read a book.

I'd love for you to share your ideas and experiences.