You like to keep your inbox as close to zero as possible. Responding to everything that comes in within a 24-hour window, you’ve managed to do just that. But lately, emails have been arriving more than usual. And several times you’ve broken your 24-hour response policy. No one notices or cares. You do though. In fact, there’s a particular email that you’ve wanted to handle for the last couple of days.
The email isn’t pressing by any means. You have a full week to respond to it. But you don’t want to wait that long. You want that thing out of your inbox now. Yet your time is spread thin at the moment and you’re not sure when, if ever, you’ll be able to get a few free minutes. That is until you remember surplus time.
Ahh yes, surplus time, the inevitable downswing in any business venture. That period when you have more than enough time to catch up on your work and then some. While you’d rather handle that email right now, you know that surplus time is forthcoming and that all you need to do is wait. And wait is what you do. The next day is busy. So is the one after that. But, all of a sudden, on the following day, you’re able to catch your breath. The storm has passed and you now have plenty of time to dedicate to that email that’s been so patiently waiting for you.
What is surplus time?
In any job, there are periods of both busyness and idleness. Of being slammed and being slow. You may not want to admit it, preferring to think that you and your work are always thriving, always going full-speed ahead, but that’s not the reality of things. There are lulls in any venture. Consider any company you’ve ever worked for. Some days were busy and others were slow, right? It’s the natural rhythm of things. Like a wave.
Surplus time (aka downtime) is the moment in which things have slowed down. It could be for an hour, a day, or a week (hopefully not longer than that, lest you become lethargic and bored). It is newfound time that you can’t plan for but can anticipate. It’s time that is spontaneous in terms of when it occurs and what you choose to do during it.
Returning back to the story that started this article off, recall that you’re busy. Busier than you have been in a long time. Thus, your inbox grows fuller by the day and your policies get stretched. However, you don’t panic. Because you know that surplus time is coming. You’re not sure when, but you know that it’s inevitable. And so, you calmly let a few things pile up, knowing full well that you’ll be able to address them soon.
Waiting for the downswing
Surplus time is not an excuse to procrastinate. Instead, it’s a realization that you only have so much time in a day and, while everything may be important, some things will ultimately need to be handled before others. For those things that can’t be done today, you can wait on them knowing that the wave of busyness will soon pass.
I just recently experienced this phenomenon. Similar to the story above, I was having a busier week than normal. I too had an email that sat in my inbox, staring at me, day after day. And while I desperately wanted to handle it, I couldn’t. Even after working in the evening to catch up, I still couldn’t get to it. But I knew things were changing.
It wasn’t long after that things finally slowed down. I had more than enough time to handle the email and I reached inbox zero once again. I didn’t respond to it as quickly as I would have liked, but I responded to it nonetheless. It got done thanks to surplus time.
Your surplus time moving forward
I’ve used email as an example throughout this article because it’s a common task. However, surplus time doesn’t just apply to communications. It can be applied to anything that you’re deliberately holding off on until you have the time needed for it. That could be:
- Applying for new jobs;
- Mopping your home;
- Creating a new song;
- Anything that you want to do, but requires more time than you have at present.
Waiting for surplus time is an intentional choice on your part. It’s not putting things off, it’s putting things on standby. If you had the time, you would do it. But alas, you don’t have the time. And so you wait until the moment is right and you can finally tackle that task once and for all.
Don’t panic if you’re busy right now. Because soon, any second, surplus time will be here. And with it, the ability to catch up on all that you’ve been wanting to do. Are you ready?