I nearly let someone down yesterday.

My usually reliable, but hastily scribbled to-do list included a number of tasks that had been dutifully checked off as time passed, but one rather significant item was not ruled out. I was unaware of this.

Just after half past four, I had a missed call, and when I returned it just before 5, I was reminded of my oversight. Scampering home from my meeting, and with dinner to cook for my family, I mentally calculated how many minutes I might have to complete my task and would it be enough to make it meaningful. Oh, and then Tesco was due to deliver as well …

Time is a construct, they say.

Not entirely sure what is meant by that, but we do use time to divide and our lives, professional and personal, into chunks. Some are of our own design; however most are dictated by the various influences that are brought to bear on our existence.

This is not one of those awful lectures about us all having the same 24 hours in a day and if you use them more effectively, you too can achieve a high-sheen, pearly white life. That kind of nonsense has been roundly de-bunked and pays no attention to the fact that so many things beyond our control and crash into our schedule without warning. We do all have the same 24 hours, but we all have different things which we want or need to do with them.

What we also share, is the fact that time only goes one way. Forward. Day follows night, and vice versa. Midday will always be a pre-cursor to 3pm and if we agree at midday to have something done by 3pm, it must be agreed on the basis that this chunk of time is sufficient. All businesses have deadlines, dictated by myriad factors. What can be controlled is how we agree our understanding of the timescale. This has nothing to do with the ticking of a clock, or the crosses on your calendar, but how we have sensible conversations about how this works.

If you are dealing with a sought after and reliable tradesperson to do an important job in your home, it makes sense to discuss with them, when they are available to do this and how long it will take. Not doing this would be a major oversight and would likely lead to awkward silences in the future. So why not take this approach in other aspects of life?

My potential misstep came as a result of negligence on my part, albeit innocent rather than incompetent. It could have resulted in a colleague being left without key information going into an important meeting. That would have been embarrassing for her, but it would have been on me. However, because she is thorough and supportive, she did not wait until the last minute to check in with me about my progress on this task. A friendly call well before the deadline meant that regardless of where I might have been in my process, she had taken steps to prevent an issue that would reflect badly on us both. This is not micro-management. This is people helping people. Thank you Kate Reed.

How we deal with time is a reflection of how we deal with people. If we are sensible, realistic, and understanding, we should always have enough time. Accidents happen, oversights occur, but they can become the exception rather than the rule if we value each other and each other’s time as much as do ourselves and our own.

The panic that I faced was over as quickly as it began. Task completed, I set about preparing risotto with slow-roasted butternut squash, sweet potato, and home-made stock (which I had taken the time to prepare earlier). There was no disaster and time continued to pass ….