I never let my mornings go to waste. I’m always more productive around the time the sun comes up and I make sure I use that morning boost to work on something important or particularly challenging. I was to follow that exact same plan last Friday, and all would have been well had I not allowed myself one fateful distraction.
That distraction was a 30-year old Mercedes I keep locked away in a garage on the outskirts of the city. It’s an old car, and since old cars are expensive to run I only take it out twice a year or so. On Thursday evening, due to a rapidly evolving sequence of (mostly) unforeseeable events, I learned that I had to move the car to another location out of town, and do so with some haste. Because it’s winter here (winter as in actual snow-kind of winter), I had to change its tires and run it through a check-up first. The government doesn’t trust old cars, so I have to get a check-up every year. Knowing my old car, I understand the government’s point of view on this.
Since the car had to get fixed up for the road by Saturday morning, I figured I’d get this out of the way first thing Friday to avoid the evening rush hour. Surely, spending a couple of hours of my morning prime time on a menial task wouldn’t be a big deal? Or, as many famous prematurely deceased people have said – “what’s the worst that could happen?”
I got to the garage early, after stopping at a nearby tire shop (the tire shop had no website or a number) to make sure I can get in before the inspection appointment. I also wanted to make sure me and my car were on the same page about it starting up its engine. He can be so stubborn sometimes. Upon opening the garage doors and doing a quick visual inspection, I realised, after a brief something-looks-odd moment, that somebody had already changed the tires for me. While this was a pleasant surprise, it did raise a number of questions, all of which were disturbing, since my garage has a pretty sturdy lock on it.
The thoughts “what a lovely surprise” and “AXE MURDERER DUCK NOW” occurred simultaneously, for the first time in human history.
Hours later, when I was mourning my lost time at the office, I did find out that a neighbour at the garage complex had done me the favour of changing the tires. This did not, however, make the previously mentioned questions any less disturbing (why does he have the keys? Or does he?). Still, this act of kindness saved me 20 Euros which, during Christmas time, is worth about twice as much.
After the tire affair, I was left with an hour-long time window which I spent sitting in my old car, trying to figure out why my not-so-old phone can’t start up a wireless hotspot so I could work. I arrived at the checkup a little before the agreed time, believing that I had made one worth-while trip that morning. This belief proved to be false, as the inspection technician informed me that if I waited till Spring with the inspection, it would extend my coverage for a year, as opposed to the four months I would get if I did it straight away. He also convinced me that the police wouldn’t be at all bothered if I was ever stopped, and if I was only driving the car from one garage to the other (and not very fast). While by now I had saved around 55 Euro in total, I did realise that all I had done with my morning was sit in my old car, googling about wireless connectivity problems on my not-so-old phone.
What this little Friday joyride told me, is that mornings are precious. Technically, I only lost 2-3 hours of productive time. But the problem wasn’t in the lost time – the problem was that I had lost the wrong kind of time. By the time I got to the office (rather late, I must add), my morning energy was long gone. As to wipe out the last trace of creative productivity, I was also reminded about an imminent office Christmas party, evidenced by a noticeable buzz and a few opened wine bottles.
Editor’s note: There is no drinking at the Toggl offices. This was a one time Christmas party that shall never be repeated, unless Christmas happens again next year.
Starting the day reacting to external circumstances is a known productivity killer. This is why for example e-mail’s are best saved for later. I started my day reacting to a call to move my car, then went on to react to the different changing circumstances that followed. When I got to work, I found that the best I could do was keep reacting to things, instead of creating something. Once you get on that slippery road of reactionary behaviour, it takes a while to recover from the skid. For humans, lacking the option of winter tires, it’s best to take the morning train instead.