Plan Ahead

(photo by Estee Janssens on Unsplash)

When I worked in the corporate world as an accountant, there would always be deadlines, especially at the end of the month. I would be swamped with tasks to get done. Somehow I usually met these deadlines, with a lot of stressful moments. Sometimes it would be completed right at the deadline. Occasionally, I would be late and be granted a little extra time. Eventually I realized that I could automate some of my tasks in the spreadsheet software. So during the slower part of the month, I began to create new spreadsheets with formulas, pivot tables, and other methods. This way, when the end of month financials came in, I would be further along in the process. Each month, I would add more automation. Eventually, some of my task time was cut down by forty to fifty percent. The less time I needed to create these reports allowed for more time to analyze the numbers, which was the important part.

I recently had an appointment at the motor vehicle agency. I waited until the week of the appointment to search for and gather all the documents needed for my visit. What would have happened if I could not find some of the documents? I may have run out of time. Yet, I scheduled the appointment a month in advance. I could have set aside time on my calendar three weeks ago to search for the papers, put them in a folder, and placed them somewhere safe.

Moving forward to today’s project at home, I am working on my individual tax return, which is due a week from today. Here I am again, up against a deadline, feeling the similar stressors from the corporate job. It sure would have been nice if this task was completed well in advance. I can hear the voice in my head say, “Next year will be different.” I did not procrastinate this year. Actually, I purchased the tax software and entered a majority of numbers into the return a while back. But then I put it on hold to take care of other pressing projects. That was my mistake. Ideally, I would have continued to move forward with the next tax return steps, even if it was one item each week. That would have kept the momentum going. Instead, when I picked up the work again recently, I had to re-acclimate myself to some of the transactions, which was like doing double the work.

We all have our daily tasks that need to be done. And we may spend all our time each day focused on the things we have to do today. However, what if we took time aside each day, even just a few minutes, to work on a task that does not contain the burden of an immediate deadline.

When we first become aware of a task or event, we can take out a few minutes to identify and write down the action steps required. Perhaps use visualization techniques, as one example, to envision the completed task, or to see ourselves at the future event; to help identify these action steps. Then, utilize a calendar to block off time for ourselves to do the work, bit-by-bit, over time. Stress less. Complete more.

What is one small step you can do to begin a future project, now?