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McLEOD: Minding the gap keeps you from falling into the abyss

“Mind the gap.” It’s a phrase commonly used to warn train passengers of the gap between the station platform and the train door. But it’s also a metaphor that applies to many areas of our lives.

The gap is the space between one activity and the next.

Not being mindful of the gap between a moving train and a concrete subway platform can cost you an arm or a leg. But ignoring other gaps can also be costly.

For example, if you have to leave the house at 8 a.m. it’s probably going to take you five minutes to walk downstairs, get your briefcase, pour yourself a to-go cup of coffee and get into your car.

If you don’t allow for that 5-minute gap, you’ll still be brushing your teeth at 7:59. Then as you rush out the door at 8:05 with toothpaste crusted around your mouth, spilling coffee in your wake, you’ll find yourself wondering why you’re late. Again.

The gap is the unacknowledged time that it takes to get out the door, say goodbye, park the car, wait for the shower to warm up and the million others things that we never factor into our schedules.

Here are a few common gaps:

Parking: You pull up right on time for your 10 a.m. meeting. But if you can’t find a parking space, it’s 10:15 before you walk in the door.

Waiting in the lobby: How many times have you had to wait while the receptionist dealt with the UPS guy? Your appointment doesn’t know what time you arrived; all they know is that they buzzed you back 10 minutes late.

Waking up: If you set your alarm assuming that you’ll jump into the shower 30 seconds after it goes off, you’re starting your day in the hole. Very few of us jump out of bed ready to spring into action; give yourself three minutes to yawn and stretch.

Settling in your seat: I learned this one the hard way. My first week of my first job, I walked into an 8 a.m. meeting at precisely 8 a.m. only to find the entire group, coffee in hand, sitting attentively as the presenter began her presentation. My boss took me aside, telling me, “When we say it starts at 8, we mean it STARTS at 8.” Whether it’s a meeting or a movie, give yourself time to get your stuff, get your seat and get yourself settled before show time.

Saying hello and goodbye: You can rush in and out of your home or office without greeting anyone. But if you allot a mere five or 10 minutes to connect with your coworkers and family, you’ll build better relationships, and you won’t come across as frantic and frazzled.

Shifting your stuff: If you want to leave at 3, you need to be shutting off your computer at 2:55 so you can pack up your briefcase. If the conference call starts at 11, you need to have your notes out by 10:55 and be dialing in at 10:57. That’s assuming that your only job is to show up. If you’re in charge of something, it goes a lot better if you show up early and make sure your brain has fully transitioned before everybody else has arrived.

Minding the gap isn’t just about subway safety. It’s about getting through life without killing yourself.

Snellville resident Lisa Earle McLeod is a keynote speaker, consultant, and the best-selling author of “The Triangle of Truth.” Sign up for her newsletter at www.TriangleofTruth.com.