Work Backward and Defeat Procrastination

When I was a teenager, my grandfather laughingly said to me, “Why do today what you can put off until tomorrow?”

“No, Grandpa, that’s not right!” I said.”You shouldn’t put things off!”

At that time, I thought Grandpa’s advice sounded silly, and I wondered why he gave it to me. He may have seen that, in reality, I was putting off a lot of things until tomorrow.

As a Christian, I want to use the time that I have to accomplish the tasks God has equipped me and called me to do. That means I must come to grips with the fact that I Connemara Mountainshave limited time on this earth. Like morning fog, it quickly disappears. (James 4:14 NLT) Knowing my time is limited, it’s crucial that I determine what events and tasks are truly important and do not procrastinate in doing them. That can be challenging.

Procrastination—intentionally delaying what I need to do—has been a difficult habit for me to break. I think that’s partly because it’s hard for me to estimate the time it will take me to complete a task. When I get up in the morning I know in my mind that I have a limited number of hours before nightfall, but I feel as if I have unlimited time. So throughout the day I put off doing necessary tasks, thinking that I will have time to do it later. The consequence is: I end up with a number of uncompleted tasks; I feel stressed and unhappy, and in order to complete a few more tasks, I work up until the point I go to bed.

Last weekend, I decided to try a different approach. I decided to work backward through my day. Starting with the last event, I listed my commitments and important tasks for the day.

This was my list:

  • 8:15  p.m. Give personal care products to friends who ordered them at my party
  • 7:30 p.m. Attend church service and say “good-bye” to friends who are leaving
  • 5:00 p.m. Attend wedding reception
  • 1:00 p.m. Attend wedding
  • 11:50a.m. Leave early for wedding because my husband, who is officiating, must be there on time

Next I listed what I needed to do for each event and began working on my list by doing the task that I needed to accomplish for the last (8:15 p. m.) event, first.

After breakfast, I packaged the products for my friends. If I would have waited until I came home from the wedding reception, I would not have had time to do it. I could have done it in the time between the wedding and the reception, but then I would not have been able to visit with friends in a relaxed way.

Next, I made soup so that I would have it to eat before going to the wedding reception. (If I go to a party when I’m hungry, it’s hard for me to stick to my limited diet. I eat a lot of food that disagrees with me.)

Then, after I printed a poem for my wedding card, I had just enough time to get dressed before needing to leave for the wedding. I felt relaxed for the rest of the day because I was not rushing to finish some needed task.

In January, I wrote down seven goals that I wanted to accomplish this year. One of them was to finish writing a book, to publish it, and to begin marketing it by April 1. I missed the April 1 goal, but now my book is in production. I expect to hold a copy in my hands in two or three weeks. What will I do during that time? Work on other goals that I’ve neglected through procrastination.

Questions for you to consider:

  • What important, end-of-the day event do you often not get done because you procrastinated preparing for it?
  • What could you do earlier in the day to prepare for that event?

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