I know what you’re thinking: “I work well under pressure.” Or “when I’m under the gun it helps me to focus my thoughts.” I know because I used to have similar ideas. In the past I never intended to leave things for the last minute, but I often did. I would always finish things on time, but it would be in a mad rush that left my nerves quite frazzled in the end. Why did all this happen? Because I never had systems and intentional strategies in place to help me to finish things early.
I recently wrote a post called “How To Maximize Your Schedule,” but I realized that I still didn’t end up making the strongest case as to why things should be finished early. I’d like to do that now.
So here are three reasons why you should finish your projects early:
1. It helps you to be more creative
I thought that leaving things for the last minute actually helped me to be more creative, because it “forced” me to focus the little time I had. But since I’ve been working on finishing things early, I’ve noticed that I actually have much more creativity. This is for a variety of reasons. Firstly, it gives my mind more time to think about the finished product. I can come back to it later, seeing the big picture, and seeing little areas that might need to be tweaked and could be made better. Scientists agree that while you sleep your mind continues processing and thinking about a project. Often times I’ll go to sleep not knowing how to go about a project, but realizing in the morning that it’s become clear.
Secondly, I have more creativity because I have more time to be creative. I can finish a project or sermon, and then be thinking about things that are yet to come in the future, giving myself even more time to process and marinate the ideas.
2. Gives you more freedom to respond to emergencies
When you finish things early, you’re creating margin in your life that helps your to be prepared for emergencies. As a pastor, the biggest “project” I have every week is writing a sermon. If you’ve never prepared a sermon before, it usually takes 15-20 hours of study and concentration. My sermons are generally about 8 pages in length and 2500 words. It’s like writing a research paper every week. I’ve created a system in place in my schedule whereby I devote two days to the process of sermon writing. On Tuesdays I work on research and creating an outline of the message with a title and main idea. On Wednesday, I actually write the sermon out and streamline it. Once I’m done with that project, it means that I still have two more days in my week to devote to other important, but not necessarily urgent matters. If an emergency happens, I can address it with confidence knowing that my message is already done.
3. Allows you to be emotionally present
When you finish things early, it also allows you to live a much more relaxed and balanced life. I can spend more time with my family. I can be emotionally present with people in a meeting. More importantly, I can be emotionally present with my family. I can spend time with my wife without worrying about some project that needs to be finished. I can enjoy playing catch with my little son or enjoy watching him bang away on a piano because I know that things are already done.
I push myself hard in the beginning of the week with the urgent and important matters, so that by Thursday I can focus on those things that are still important, but not necessarily urgent.
What about you? What works for you?
[image by zoutedrop]