An Easy Trick to Avoid and Reduce Stress
When I leave for my office, it usually takes me about 20 minutes to drive there. If I have an appointment scheduled, I like to be on time, so I allow the 20 minutes. The real truth, however, is that 20 minutes is cutting it close and only works if there are no traffic glitches on my driving route. In fact, if there is heavy traffic, a lot of red lights, an active school zone, slow drivers, rain, or anything out of the ordinary, I will be late if I only allow myself 20 minutes.
If I leave 30 minutes ahead of time, I am always on time. Not only on time, but I have a moment to get into my office and settle in before an appointment begins. Adding the extra 10 minutes makes everything work smoothly, and best of all, it makes the trip calm and devoid of stress. If there is heavy traffic or a slow driver, I'm not worried. I don't feel tense. I can relax and just go with the flow. That extra 10 minutes is my "padspace."
How Much Padspace is Necessary?
The word "padspace" comes from a design element called "padding." It's space that you place around an image to separate it from content in a document so that it's easy to see. Designers can designate how much padding to use in any document or for images on a website. For life purposes, "padspace" is the extra time, extra money, extra supplies, extra anything that you allow in any given situation to deal with the unexpected. It's that extra room to breathe. It allows you to avoid feeling stressed or anxious. And in the case above, my padspace was exactly 50% more than what I thought I needed.
This is a good rule of thumb. I used to think 20% extra was good padspace and sometimes it is, but I have since changed that to 50% after reading this suggestion in Essentialism by Greg McKeown. The truth is, I often need much more than 20%. In most cases 50% more will do the trick.
The Underlying Belief
There is an underlying premise and belief that you can do things faster than you actually can. The tendency is to estimate low. The other premise that can get you in trouble is the idea that nothing will go wrong. A better approach, and one that is more accurate, is that more often than not, there will be events that you did not foresee. You need to be prepared in case.
This idea shows up often in business when a company operates under the assumption that there are no possible environmental changes that will impact their income such as a recession or a temporary shortage of supply or a storm system that halts delivery or a new business that competes and takes away customers. A smart business executive always plans for lean times and unexpected obstacles. He holds back a good deal of profits for those situations. It's the ole "save for a rainy day" adage that has a great deal of truth to it.
On a more personal note, Dave Ramsey suggests that you should have at the very least $1000 in your savings account for the unexpected. He highly advises having enough money in savings to live on for a minimum of six months, which is 50% of a year. This allows for an unexpected drop in income, or a job layoff, or large repairs.
The lesson here is to set up padspace that is about 50% greater than what you expect. Apply this to small daily actions as well as bigger long term plans. You will avoid a lot of unnecessary stress, and you will be more successful at the same time in all that you do.
Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less. Greg McKeown. Crown Publishing, 2014. (See Chapter 15: "Buffer: The Unfair Advantage.")
The Total Money Makover: A Proven Plan for Financial Fitness. Dave Ramsey. Thomas Nelson, Publisher. 2009.