Yesterday afternoon I decided to go running before I picked my son up from school. I went to the park, stretched, and headed out. Something felt different, though, and I realized I had my phone in one hand but I didn’t have my key in the other hand. As soon as I noticed that, I knew I’d left the key on the front seat of the car. I turned around and ran back, hoping I’d left the car unlocked. I didn’t.

Luckily, I had my phone in my hand, so I called AAA. Then I walked in circles around the parking lot until my rescuer appeared. He was a very nice guy with some crazy tools that he used to get my passenger door unlocked in less than five minutes.

As he drove away, I decided to head for my son’s school and got there early. I was glad I’d noticed the missing key at the start of my run rather than at the end as I would have been late picking him up.

When I pulled up at my son’s school, I suddenly realized I’d left his karate uniform and all his gear at home. I didn’t have time to go home and get it before school got out.

At that point, with two minor snafus created by my thoughtlessness, I decided I needed to reflect on the things I was doing and why.

Many years ago I’d taken care of a young man who’d been repairing a window when it crashed on his head and cut him. As I cleaned his wound he explained to me how things like this happened, minor accidents, when he needed to look more closely at something that was going on in his life. To him, the broken window was a sign that he needed to examine his life.

I’ve taken to doing the same thing. Luckily, no windows crashed on me, but my mistakes had cost me my beloved exercise time and my son’s that day. I didn’t want it to continue.

I realized I’d just been too busy. I create my own schedule these days and I try to take good care of myself, but I’d been overscheduling myself. My business was getting busier since my son started school, which was great, but I didn’t want to be so busy I couldn’t take care of the things I feel are fundamental in my life. Exercise is one of those things.

So I took a few deep breaths and then I took another look at my schedule. I added more time buffers and I scheduled my office hours so I didn’t have to run out the door the minute they were over. I wanted time to stop and check I had everything I needed, including a few extra minutes.

I like to arrive early for appointments, as I feel more relaxed, (and, I think, less likely to shut my key in the car,) but also because I want to respect other people’s time just as I want my own time respected.

I always have plenty to occupy myself when I arrive early. I can work anywhere on my iPad and I also keep some pens and paper handy. Over time I can create a blog post, a chapter, or a (tiny) piece of art.

We all deserve a few minutes of breathing room every day—every appointment, every task.

Do you give yourself breathing room?


Diane MacKinnon, MD, writes about and speaks on life coaching topics. You can contact her at, or check out her website at 

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