I am ruthless about managing my time, a master multi-tasker, committed to staying on schedule in my career and with my family. I’ve been measuring, collecting, and guarding every spare moment for decades. “I just need another minute.” “We don’t have time for that today.” “Hurry please, we’re going to be late,” are my constant refrains.

Are you like me, constantly grasping for a few more minutes each day? Do you also trade time management tips and life hacks for getting more done in the same 24 hours we’ve all been given? Many of us steal waking hours when we should be sleeping.

And now we are suddenly on pause. It feels disorienting and uncomfortable, and we want to get back to “normal.” But I’m starting to think this could also be a unique opportunity to completely rethink this race we’re running against time. Can I learn something while on pause that can help me find a new peace in my struggle to stay on schedule?

Time-out, But Not Time-off

In today’s alternate universe, my relationship to time feels distinctly different than the one I’ve always known. Business traveled is paused, family trips are cancelled, extracurricular activities are truncated to online experiences. There isn’t the same freedom to just get out of the house. I’ve had to adjust.

While some people are using these cancellations as a chance to bake more, exercise more, or learn a new skill, most of my friends and colleagues are busier than ever. People are still reporting into work for essential functions. Significant additional workload created by this crisis has been added to our already demanding day jobs. For those of us fortunate enough to be able to perform our jobs while teleworking, many are also serving as under-qualified substitute teachers, or caring for close family members.

And while we juggle these immediate demands, we are unable to plan more than a few weeks into the future, adding to the stress and anxiety of this crisis. We can’t coordinate the next customer visit or team training because we don’t know when we’ll be gathering in groups again. And for a planner like me, the inability to schedule my life way into the future is especially frustrating.

Time Check, What Really Matters

As sudden and unfamiliar as this new reality is to all of us, we’ve adjusted very quickly. Important meetings with customers moved from conference rooms to video meetings. Business, regulatory, investor, and board governance activities are all continuing virtually. I welcomed the cancellation or the shortening of several standing meetings, exposing the possibility that they might not have been necessary in the first place.

I think a lot these days about how our goals have changed or need to change. Can we accomplish our objectives on the same timelines we had previously? And a more interesting question is, do the goals we set several months ago still matter with the same urgency? A crisis can help put into perspective what is truly important to our employees, our customers, and the communities we serve.

Though so much of our current reality is out of our control, this pause has made me feel more in control of my time than ever before. If something is truly important and needs to get done, I find a way. Most everything else can get canceled “due to the current crisis,” which is a liberating feeling for those of us accustomed to zero flexibly in packed calendars.

Time-in, with a New Perspective

When we start phasing out the current safe at home restrictions, I plan to be thoughtful about what I bring forward from our past, and I will encourage our Customer Service team to do the same. If we’re not careful, we could find ourselves in a mad rush to get “back to normal,” as offices start to reopen. But was “normal,” that feeling like we never had enough hours in the day, was that really the best we can be?

Instead, we should search out and eliminate past practices that, during this pause, we proved were not valuable. Maybe we don’t labor over details as much as we previously did, since getting it done is more important than making it perfect. And we definitely need to keep the perspective of what really matters to our team and our customers in focus.

Crossing-out activities on our family calendar recently, I thought about which ones I would be writing down again on this calendar in a few months. I will reschedule our planned family trip to the Grand Canyon, but I plan to hold back filling our days with so many extracurriculars. The last few weeks have proven we can enjoy each other and entertain ourselves as a family of four, without being so on-the-go every weekend.

Customer visits and meetings with team members who are reporting to our offices and in the field, will come back on my calendar as quickly as possible. While an overnight trip I planned to San Francisco for work, now looks like something I could manage just as effectively over video, even with travel restrictions lifted in the future. I feel more emboldened than ever to be judicious about what I choose to add to my calendar.

There are still many unknowns about what the future of work will look like, but let’s allow this moment of pause to help us be intentional about spending our time in ways that truly matter. At least let’s take some time to think about it.