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I will find those five wasted minutes in my day and use them for these three things

By Nancy Napier

Special to the Idaho Statesman

No time to think? Nancy Napier says one of the ideas in Thomas Friedman’s latest book has given her a personal goal for 2017.
No time to think? Nancy Napier says one of the ideas in Thomas Friedman’s latest book has given her a personal goal for 2017.

For me, one of the joys of this time of year is that it is a bit slower. After all of the hoopla of celebrations, dinners and visits, the week before New Year’s tends to quiet a bit. That’s my time to catch up and plan what books, ideas and goals I have for the coming year.

I have been skimming/reading New York Times’ columnist Tom Friedman’s new book, “Thank You For Being Late.”

This sprawling, ambitious book seeks to help explain why we feel sometimes at a loss to keep up with all of the coming changes in technology, the marketplace and the environment. But the title and a simple idea within the book kick-started my 2017 plans. The simple idea is the need for reflection and pausing.

As he researches columns and books, Friedman interviews people, frequently over breakfast at a few key spots around Washington, D.C. He has discovered over the last years that his breakfast mates often arrive later than the appointment time, because of delayed subways or bad traffic. Inevitably, people arrive in a flurry, flushed and apologizing for being late.

The first few times, Friedman responded that it was no bother and thanked them for being late (5 or 10 or 20 minutes).

Then he began to see the lateness as a sort of gift of unexpected time to think about ideas, reflect on what he was writing or just overhear conversations of people at neighboring tables.

When he realized that he so rarely had time for reflection, he became increasingly pleased when others were late. His point: We don’t take time to pause and reflect, and in this world and in these times, we need to more than ever.

Well into the book, after Friedman has shown why it’s so important for us to accept continual learning if we want to succeed, he comments that when he sees someone playing “Candy Crush” on her iPhone while waiting for a bus or subway, he thinks, “How could you use that wasted five minutes differently?”

Even five minutes could provide that reflection time, or a chance to learn a new word, or an opportunity to observe something around us in a different way.

So I’m combining those two thoughts as I start the new year: looking for those five wasted minutes in my day and then using them to pause, reflect or just listen.

That should be an easy-to-win goal, and right now, that would be quite welcome.

Nancy Napier is distinguished professor, Boise State University, nnapier@boisestate.edu.

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