Military service is compulsory in Greece, so, like everyone else, I served for a brief amount of time several years ago.
While there, it took me two days to figure out that I needed thirteen minutes from opening my eyes in the morning to standing in line. I therefore set the alarm at 06:45, and I was out at 06:58. The company inspection supposedly started at 07:00.
It took me only a few more days to notice that the inspection always started 15 minutes late. Although most of us were ready by 07:00, several people in the 120-person company hadn’t managed and were still preparing. With mathematical precision, the last one would come out of the building’s door at 07:14.
So I changed my habit—there was no point in losing 15 minutes of sleep just to wait idly. I didn’t want to be too visible, so I took care to not be the last person out of the building. I set my alarm at 07:00. I was preparing calmly while the people around me were running around and the officers were shouting. I went out at 07:13. There were practically always two or three people coming out just a bit later.
Many people have trouble doing such observation, particularly self-observation. They think it will take them five minutes to put their clothes on and five to walk from their home to their appointment, therefore it seems reasonable to start to prepare 10 minutes before the appointment. But if you’ve done it five times in the past and you were 10 minutes late all these times, then you actually need 20 minutes.
Why do you need the extra 10 minutes? Maybe it takes six and not five minutes to dress. Plus one minute to go downstairs. Plus two minutes to locate your misplaced phone or keys. Plus one minute to pause and say hello to your neighbour. And so on and so on. This analysis doesn’t matter much. While in the army, I didn’t need to know exactly where I was spending my 13 minutes. It was enough for me to know that I needed 13 minutes.
But, as I said, many people have trouble observing themselves. This is an important reason for missed deadlines, or for the rush before the deadline, and for much other detriment to businesses. I will write more about this next week.
Have a lovely weekend,