Set Up Redundant Reminders
Polychrones need redundant "Stop!" reminders the way airplanes need multiple engines, each of which can fly the plane solo should the others fail. I set my alarm-clock watch to go off 15 minutes before I need to stop doing something. The alarm sounds every five minutes until I deactivate it, letting everyone know I need to leave (although one polychrone friend, hearing the beep-beep for the third time, burst out, "What does that thing want?").
If you're a true polychrone, get backup support from human beings to supplement mechanical reminders. I explain to everyone I deal with—co-workers, children, friends—that I'm transitionally challenged and they should call me on my cell phone if I'm even a few minutes late. Such calls often come in when I'm happily writing or rearranging the furniture. The monochrones in my life are so organized, they have no trouble remembering to remind me to show up.
Give the Dismount Half the Energy
Gymnasts who fail to "stick the dismount" get lower scores than those who muff a move earlier in their routines. Because endings are so memorable, they deserve about half the total energy you spend on any given activity—that's right, half. This doesn't mean someone with transition anxiety should sprint off midway through lunch or a business meeting. Setting up your dismount means that you stop beginning new tasks or raising another idea, and begin moving toward closure. Start winding up your conversation, tidying the kitchen, organizing your documents, putting things away. Say, "So, what do you plan to do next?" or "Let's summarize our ideas for finishing this job." At the halfway point of writing an article, perhaps, stop describing the problem and start herding up solutions. (That's what I did here, and, believe me, it hurt.)
I need to repeat: Wrapping up an event and getting comfortable closure requires about 50 percent of the time and energy you'll put into any given project, from a chat to a championship. Just as judges are impressed by a double-twisting forward layout finale, people will remember your performance fondly if the dismount has lots of energy.
Emma and the rest of us can start improving our lives simply by recognizing that we were born with looser internal clocks, which is a little like being left-handed in a world of right-handed can openers—not a huge disability but one that requires a little forethought, many Post-its, and, for key appointments, a marker that shows up well on skin. This acceptance allows us to begin dealing effectively with life in our local chrono-cracy. We can design, rehearse, and enlist help to master the art of the dismount. Then we can add our polychronic charm to the manic madness of modern society, without missing any crucial appointments. Which reminds me, I have to scoot, or I'll be late for a meeting.
That wasn't so hard, was it?
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