I had just wrapped up a large project and was looking forward to some down time before other large projects pick up again in late October. Plus, I had also landed two new clients and was eager to get started on their events.
Fortunately, I wasn’t behind on anythng deadline-wise. During breaks, I was fielding emails and phone calls. I even got caught up on my reading. I’ve been reading Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less by Greg McKeown. I almost dismissed it as another self-help, preachy book, had it not been recommended by Michael Hyatt, someone I highly respect on social media.
As I fidgeted about the 99 things I could be doing or would rather be doing, I landed on chapter 15, where McKeown discusses buffers. How apt, I thought. Literally, a “buffer” is a person or thing that prevents incompatible people or things from coming into contact with or harming each other.
A “buffer zone” according to McKeown’s example, could be “the periphery of a protected environmental area that is used to create extra space between that area and any potential threats that might infiltrate it.” Between two runners in a race, that could be that three to four feet of peripheral space that prevents them from tripping and bumping into each other. It could also be that extra half-hour or hour we give ourselves to get to an important appointment.
I love the concept of the essentialist who McKeown describes as someone who “gets the right things done” and “lives by design, not by default.” The essentialist looks ahead, prepares for different contingencies and practices extreme preparation. On the other hand, the non-essentialist, someone McKeown describes as “someone who makes a millimeter of progress in a million directions,” and often operates on a “best-case scenario.”
Since we can’t and shouldn’t always operate on a best-case scenario, McKeown gives a few sanity-saving and buffer-creation tips:
Use extreme preparation. You know that presentation you have been preparing for months? Practice, test your equipment, have a plan B and even a plan C. Practice some more. Pack your things and load them into your car the night before, not the morning of.
Add 50 percent to your time estimate. Even if it normally just takes 30 minutes to get to an often-travelled destination, add a buffer of another 15 minutes at least. Traffic happens. Accidents occur at all times of the day. Two years ago, I was late to a meeting with a new client due to a massive traffic jam. Fortunately, she was on the same freeway. We both walked into her office at almost the same time. But what if she wasn’t late? I would have lost her business probably.
Conduct scenario planning. As a volunteer recruiter on the side, I often have to anticipate and prepare for various “worst-case scenarios.” I try to over-recruit by about 15 to 20 percent to plan for no-shows, cancellations and late-comers. I plan scenarios in my head ex. medical emergencies or road closures making it challenging for volunteers to get to their assignments. Most of these scenarios haven’t played out in real-life but rehearsing them in my mind and having solutions gives me peace of mind.