Bus missed: Lesson learned

I started my morning with an utter irritation caused due to missing an inter-city bus which was supposed to take me to an airport 300 KMs away. To go to the inter-city bus station I had to take another bus before. It was in the process of taking this first bus that things started to become murkier. I was delighted to take the first bus in time (delighted because knowing myself I am usually either on time or a bit late but not often in time). The horror started to creep in not long after the bus passed a few stops. Yes, you guessed it: I was on the right bus but it was going in a totally opposite direction to where I wanted to go. I would later discover, to my dismay, in the place where I took this bus, there were two different pick up points for this same bus. If you take the bus from one of the pickup points, you would go straight to the inter-city bus station while if you are an unlucky chap like me who picked the other one, you will end up 10s of KMs 180 degrees away from the inter-city bus station. Once I figured out I had erred I tried everything to get back en-route. Long story short I would later get on the right bus line but miss my second bus for minutes. It was exactly at this crucial moment that the real horror began. First of all, just like the stock market graph sharply rises or plunges following some incident, my travel suddenly became super expensive. It was hard to book something cheaper this last minute, besides booking something cheap to reach my destination also means compromising my flight which would lead to some more chaos. The travel options were bounded in time and that’s what makes them expensive.

It took a while but emotions settled and I booked a train to go to the airport. Then over a cup of coffee close to the train station I started to think Why I missed the bus. Is missing this bus just a coincidence or is there something behind my thinking which isn’t exactly allowing me to meet most of my timing requirements?

Now I do believe missing this bus was not entirely my fault (I arrived in time, and only due to lack of prior information that I took the right bus headed the wrong way. Had I taken the right bus heading the right way I would have had abundant time take the second bus) nevertheless I felt a burden of guilt. So naturally, I started questioning all my decisions in life as one does in situations like this. What wasn’t also helping was the fact that I under-slept the night before finishing up some work whose execution time I underestimated.

My relationship with time has become sort of distorted. I have fallen victim to the habit of doing things at the last minute. This is on top of usually being bent upon underestimating/overestimating how much time a task is going to take. The first is dependent on the second. The proper estimation of the duration for the completion of a task is perhaps an important skill to move forward in life efficiently. It allows to compartmentalize activities and protects against leakage of tasks into one another. Having this skill entails meticulously timing oneself over the course of a task while also being mindful of oneself.

To work on my negative habit of doing things at the last minute I am going to start thing backwards in time instead of thinking forward. For example if I have to take a bus at 10:45 I would start by constraining myself to arrive there 5 minutes before. Then I would estimate the time between my current location and the bus station using different means of getting there. This gives me the approximate time I should leave. This is how I would also reason to complete the work on my next paper. The deadline is on September 9. The paper should be ready 3 days before this deadline hence September 6 is the real deadline. The paper will have 6/7 sections and these can be broadly divided in to 3 categories. The introduction and literature survey part, the theoretical part and the experimental results part. The last two parts constitute the heart of the paper and deservedly require most of the effort involved in writing the paper. Today is the 8th of August and I would like to have the theoretical part nailed down by the 26th of September. This means I have to finish formulating the models I work on by the 22nd of September and write the theoretical part of the paper in the remaining 4 days. The experimental part is also going to take lots of days but most of the experiments can be automated and can concurrently be done with other work such as writing the theoretical part. By the 31st of August or 1st of September I would like to have all experimental results along with the plots and tables. The next two days are going to be used to refine and integrate the theoretical and experimental part of the paper while the next two days will be used to write the introduction and literature review sections.

Lessons from this morning: work on your approximate estimation of completion time of tasks and when it comes to arriving somewhere or achieving something start thinking back in time (from a deadline or arrival time of a bus) instead of thinking forward. But the most import lesson would be don’t hesitate to ask bus drivers where the bus is going if you are not entirely sure.

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