When I was editor of Cosmopolitan my assistant Lucy used to book me out for 15 minutes either side of all my appointments. She did this off her own back. I asked her why one day. “So you have a buffer,” she said. By which she meant, so you have time to go to the loo, eat something, draw breathe and scratch my inner left elbow between what were often back-to-back meetings.

Photo by Brian Oldham
Photo by Brian Oldham

To this day I buffer. I actively set aside pauses in my day – 15-20 minutes at a time – to breathe and scratch my inner elbow. Lucy – thank you for instilling the idea!

I don’t like the feeling of being tugged all day, being a passive passenger to the capricious winds of others’ needs, emails, noises and distractions. I have a tendency to be the dry, fluttery leaf that follows the whirly-whirly of life’s demands. I’m easily caught up. But I want to be more solid. The original tree trunk in the equation. Not entirely unflappable, but with an immovable, safe home base to come back to.

I have often stressed the importance of creating space (not just time)  in your day, in your life, in your cells. Space allows us to expand, to get steady, like the roots of a tree. Space enables wellness, for it’s the constriction in our cells that causes disease and pain.

And I’ve made it one of my missions to emphasise with everyone I care about (you!) that we are the only ones who can take charge and do our own rooting. We don’t all have Lucys in our lives.

We have to book in our buffers ourselves.

We have to ensure we’re not the dry, fluttery leaf, day-in, day-out so we can be steady and spacious. We have to be conscious. We have to practice. We have to set up structures.

I buffer in the following ways  (they might inspire you):

* I meditate in the car in a carpark between a late meeting and joining my friend for dinner. I allow this extra “travel time” between most meetings. So I’m clear and focused for the next activity.

* Similarly, I’ll arrive at the airport early and find the prayer room and just sit in the quiet. I book this time in, too, if I can.

* In the evenings, if I’m heading out for dinner, I walk instead of drive or ride. Walking is the best buffer. And takes just as long as driving when you allow for traffic and parking.

* I book out slabs in my diary to get my creative work done. I just returned from a “think week”. I had to get the outline of my next book done for my publisher today and there was no way I was going to get it done in my usual setting, with everything that’s going on right now (stay tuned for next week’s post!). So I bit bullets and booked five days at a health retreat where I could be fed and watered and sit in a warm, quiet room. Not the usual way I do things. But I had to book a buffer. It had to be done. And it worked!

* When I’m stuck in traffic, I smile with my eyes and loosen the grip on the wheel.

* I use the Pomodoro Technique, which builds in buffers for you when you’re working on a writing project.

* I’ve tried the Intentional Resting technique, which is another tool for booking yourself out…if you’re not a meditater.

What about your buffering tricks…?

Have your say, leave a comment.