“The Principle of Reserve”: Stress Less, Achieve More

If you buy a cheap suit and decide you need to have the arms lengthened, your tailor will forlornly inform you that they can’t do it.

This is because with a cheap suit, the manufacturer has not allowed for any extra material in the arms to account for the possibility.

This is the philosophy of the day in life and in business. Over-optimise. Get rid of the slack. Extra is wastage.

And it seems to make sense until something goes wrong. In which case, the absence of reserve is the biggest wastage of all.

Because when there is no slack in a system, even a minor hiccup cannot be coped with. In an ideal world no one would need to lengthen the arms on a suit. But when it happens, the lack of slack, makes the entire suit jacket un-usable.

So rather than thinking of it as a waste, think of having some reserve as insurance. Against setbacks. Against problems arising in the future.

If you want longevity and resilience in your endeavours, then you must incorporate reserve into your life.

Here’s some ways that I have incorporated the idea of reserves into my life:

1. A cash reserve

I run a business (my clinic) so there are always up and down months. I keep some money aside in case of a down-month or unexpected expenses. Some colleagues of mine call it a “war chest”. I call it a “cash reserve”. (A friend of mine calls it a “slush fund”, but I think he misunderstands what the term means).

2. More travel time

I used to really cut my travel fine so that I didn’t waste any extra time.

This was OK most of the time but on occasions when there was a delay (which in a big city like London can happen quite often) then it created huge amounts of stress, because there would be a danger of clients showing up and me not being there (which I find completely unacceptable).

Now when I go to work, I leave 2.5 hours earlier than my first appointment. I get there earlier, sit at a cafe nearby and do some work. Since implementing this change, I have never been late and never been stressed about my journey. Plus I get more work done.

3. Deadlines

I don’t believe in deadlines. But I like to give myself generous timeframes. Counter-intuitively, the more generous I am with my timeframes, the quicker I get things done.

Image credit: Olu Eletu