The Incredible Joy You'll Find in Buffer Time

time management Aug 06, 2020

“Give the bike ahead of you a 30-second lead.” the guides would shout each time our group would take off for a new destination.  This space between bikes would allow the dust to settle, but it's also a precaution to prevent crashes.

We were on a downhill waterfall mountain bike tour.  If the teenager takes off right behind me, there’s no time for him to respond when I have to slow down to yell at my kids to stop arguing over goldfish crackers.

The spacing is a buffer to keep us safe.  And inhaling less dust is a BONUS!

Keep on Buffering in the Real World

Do you build 30 seconds of space into life?

You probably need more than 30 seconds because unfortunately, life is more than just chasing waterfalls.

Let’s take this blog post, for example.  I’ve been writing weekly posts for years and depending on the subject, I know it will take me about 2 hours to write a single post.

I plan on 3 hours of writing time each week as a buffer.  This accounts for all the interruptions, breaks I’ll take while writing, and there’s buffer time.  

An hour buffer?  That seems like a ridiculous luxury.  

I used to agree until I factored in the importance of these weekly posts.  They are the foundation of my marketing and communication with you.  A top priority that I can’t let slip behind because I didn’t factor in enough time to take stretch breaks or redirect my kids for the 100th time.

To underestimate is human.  In a study of over 5000 project management professionals, only about half of all projects finished within the estimated time.  These are people who get paid to make sure a project gets done on time. 

Seems like a no brainer to add 50% into our predictions.

Beware of Parkinson

Ok, so you’ve given yourself plenty of time.  More time than you think you’ll need, but suddenly it’s gone.  

Let’s go back to the blog post example.  I’ve given myself 3 hours each week to write.  I have to discipline myself to write and not to fall into my favorite part of the writing process... RESEARCH.   

This urge to fill the time is a sneaky principle called Parkinson’s Law. I’m totally geeking out here, but I can lose myself in research.  If the extra time I was giving myself to finish writing the post expands too much, I would never get to the rest of the items on my list each day.

Here’s an example to illustrate how to fight against this law.  Say you are getting ready to leave the house for a socially distanced cup of coffee with your bestie.  No small task when you have other humans to feed and care for, but somehow you are ready 10 minutes before it’s time to walk out the door.  Perfect time to throw in that extra load of laundry.  Then you notice hubby has already run a load of laundry this morning.  Now you have to fold the clothes in the dryer, move the wash into the dryer and start a new load.  

UGH, you’re LATE, AGAIN!

Let’s rewind and try this again.  

The goal was to get out the door and arrive on time to enjoy that oatmilk latte with your girlfriend.  Instead of soaking up those extra 10 minutes with laundry, drive to the coffee shop, text your friend to see what she wants, grab that coveted window seat and savor the few quiet moments to yourself.  

That feels way better, am I right?

What about the laundry that’s piling up at home?  On your way into the garage, tell Alexa (or Siri or your assistant... I girl can dream) to remind you to do laundry when you get home.

The Beauty of Buffer Time

Love on yourself and build space between tasks. I’m guilty of trying to cram as many things into my day as possible.  On the days I remember to work with buffers, I can lay my head down at night with a greater sense of peace.  There’s beauty in the stillness between.

Here are some quick tips for the next time you jump on that mountain bike, sit down to write, or just get yourself out the door.  Make sure you leave some space for the dust to settle before you pedal.  Try these steps to work in a buffer


  • Increase your time estimate by 50%
  • Delegate time sucks to Siri or Alexa
  • Reward yourself with the space in between


Struggling to stop underestimating your time?  It’s not easy, but I’m here to help.

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