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Raise your hand if this sounds familiar: You’re out with a friend. You told your spouse you’d be home by 8 to help with the kids, but they’re in the middle of a pretty serious discussion. You don’t want to cut them off, so you stay just a little longer. 8:15 will be fine, right?

Or maybe it’s 6:30 on a Friday, and you’re still at the office. You’ve been dealing with high stress levels and your spouse isn’t comfortable with you working late any more — well, of course, you have no intention of working late, but the deadline is just around the corner. 30 more minutes is all you need to finish! Just a little longer won’t hurt. 

Or what about the most classic dilemma: the alarm clock. The alarm rings at 7 AM, and you press snooze — just a little longer is all you need. Right?

The problem with ‘just a little’ is it almost always ends up being just a LOT. That conversation with a friend goes another hour, because you never spoke up and told them your family’s needs. That work project that was only supposed to be an extra half hour keeps you in the office until 8. And as anyone who’s ever pressed snooze will tell you, that extra 5 minutes all too often turns into 10 — then 20 — then you’re running out the door without breakfast.

We can plan our schedule with the best of intentions, but if we don’t stick to our own plan, it can feel like our schedule is running us — instead of the other way around. It can hurt our relationships, our mental health, it can make us feel like we’re always floundering, always looking for more time! And the simple explanation is that we believe this ‘just a little’ lie. We say ‘just a little longer’ and we really think it’s only going to be ‘just a little longer’ — when our own history shows us that’s not the case!

Of course, we don’t want to fall into legalism; any good schedule has healthy flexibility in it. But if you’re using the ‘just a little’ reasoning every step of the way, that’s a red flag. Look at your own history, judge your own habits, even ask your partner their opinion — when you say ‘just a little longer,’ do you really mean that? Or are you letting your circumstances control your schedule? And when do you need to simply say ‘no,’ and cut things off before ‘just a little’ gets too long?