A Trip To The Probation Office: A Lesson On Managing Time

Enlightenment can strike at strange times in strange places. Like, on a Tuesday morning in the parking lot of a probation office.


My friend needed a ride to see his probation officer. It seemed I was his only option, so I agreed to take him.

On the way to pick him up, I could feel moodiness creeping into my day. “I shouldn’t have agreed to this,” I kept thinking. “But I did. No one forced me,” I told myself, trying to keep cool.

We arrived. I sat in the car. And within in five minutes I started losing my grip. I went from regret to irritation to full-blown frustration. “I should be working. I have so much to do,” I told myself.

I started getting mad with him for being on probation, mad with the court for giving him probation knowing he doesn’t have driver’s license and mad at the whole criminal justice system for coming up with an idea as stupid and pointless as probation visits.

“You people are just wasting my time. Each and every one of you,” I kept thinking.

And the more I stared at the clock, the more the waiting grated my nerves.

But as I sat there running through the list of people who were responsible for standing between me and my desire to be productive, I came upon a question for myself. If I had so much to do, why the hell wasn’t I doing anything?

I was wasting my time just as much as anybody. What happened to being flexible? What happened being able to work from virtually anywhere? That’s supposedly one of the advantages of being a freelancer, right?

Isn’t that why we invest so much money in all these portable gadgets– tablets, laptops and smartphones. Those things are supposed to help us be mobile, aren’t they? So, what’s the purpose if we act like we can only get work done in a certain location?

Wasting Time Waiting To Get To Work

How much time do I waste in a year putting off work until I get back to my desk, I wondered.

I didn’t come up with any hard figures, although I guessed it was a lot. And the exact answer didn’t matter because whether it’s minutes, hours or days, I was managing that time poorly and there’s no excuse for it.

There are dozens of things I can scratch off my to-do list while I’m waiting outside a probation office or anywhere else.

Find Out: What’s On A Freelancer’s To-Do List

Using time wisely is a lesson from Freelancers 101. But sometimes bad habits set in and we get away from the basics. To get back on track, and stay there, I decided from that day forward I’d make a waiting room to-do list outlining the things I plan to do while waiting.

I guess trips to the probation office aren’t stupid and pointless. One visit helped me change for the better, and I didn’t even go inside.