Currently pandemonium is raging around me. Suited businessmen and women are screaming into their mobiles making desperate phone calls to clients apologising profusely and trying to save face. There is a young mum ringing around friends and family trying to find a person to pick up her child from school and a young person in floods of tears trying to contact the company they are interviewing for. Then there is me, squashed in a corner seat, observing silently and writing. I am trundling along on a stopper train, bound for London Paddington a full hour later than I had intended to arrive and with a potential extra delay of 30 minutes to add a little mystery and intrigue to the end of my trip.
My train was delayed due to a tragic suicide on the tracks, resulting in a large number of trains being delayed or even cancelled. Luckily, I left very early for my engagement so, even with a one and a half hour delay, I should arrive on time, but looking at the puce faces around me, I wonder if there is a better way to deal with delays, to plan for them or even prevent them entirely?
All too frequently I find myself the victim of tube strikes or snow delays, yet these delays can be avoided. It has always surprised me that with modern technology and apps on phones providing an early warning system against planned strike actions that so many still get caught out. Thus, planning ahead for any trip is essential, by this I don’t mean sit down with a map and analyse your route with military efficiency. By planning ahead I am referring to checking the road or train condition the night before you travel, then check it again before you leave.
With smart phones and apps like Citymapper or national rail enquiries, you can receive up to date real data straight to your phone. These apps give us an efficient way to check on the status of our journey very quickly, allowing us to react and replan just as quickly if for any reason a delay has occurred. While this might add 1-2 minutes extra work to each day, I assure you that if you get into the habit of checking the status of your journey, you will quickly get a positive return on investment.
While a number of people have a plan B, it should be emphasised just how important it is to have a fall back. When things go wrong having an emergency plan will allow you to react calmly and quickly to the situation. If you have a second option planned out, you will know exactly how much time to allow for delays. For example if your average travel time is 30 minutes by train, but your plan B route is 45 minutes, it is not a strain to arrive 15 minutes early at the station. If the worst comes to the worst, you can plan in a relaxed coffee stop to plan out your day, making you more efficient and productive as well as relaxed.
Give yourself extra time
As mentioned in Plan B, allowing extra time seems like a self-defeating principle, a lot of people would prefer not to dedicate any more time to traveling or work. Yet I don’t see allowing extra time as negative action. Just because you are allowing extra time that does not necessarily mean you have to give that time over for work. I have a friend that works near Hyde Park, he allows an extra hour of commuting time into London, and if he is not delayed he donates this extra hour not to walking. He will grab a pair of boots from his office whilst leaving his jacket on the back of the chair and go for a morning walk with a pastry and tea around the park.
He has mentioned on a number of occasions the benefits produced by giving himself this extra time. The first is health; he is now healthier and happier than he has ever been since entering full time work, and going for a long walk each morning has had a huge positive impact on his physical and mental health. The second major benefit is to his career; by being the first in the office most days, combined with a positive creative attitude, his potential and earnings has grown exponentially.
Lastly, there are unfortunate cases where even the best plan B and extra time allowance cannot prevent a late arrival. The only option in this case is to accept fate. Contact any people you have engagements or meetings with immediately, apologise and suggest alternative options. Just because you cannot meet them face-to-face does not necessarily mean you have to cancel your meeting. Face time, skype and phone calls might be the best fall back option and will allow you to have your meeting on time, albeit over the phone.
Have a rich friend
Alternatively, if you don’t want to accept the hand that fate has dealt you, you can always cheat. A friend with a speedboat or helicopter is the modern way of cheating delays, thus it comes down again to who you know!
A delayed, but prepared gentleman