6. Falling Behind

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October 8, 2012 by bdetienne


All of us have fallen behind on our to-do lists before. (For some of you, it may be more often than the norm.) We set out to get several tasks checked off but a distraction arises that prevents us from realizing our goal. Sometimes this can be annoying, but not earth-shattering in the grand scheme of things. Items in this category would include being delinquent in watching the recordings of your favorite TV shows; taking the box of old clothes to Goodwill; or mowing the lawn. You hope to get it done but it is okay to wait until the next day to take care of it. However, in other cases the lagging can cause trouble for you. Examples such as keeping up with your prescribed medicine and anything on the honey-do list (sidenote: we here at Burtogram firmly believe in the “happy wife, happy life” philosophy of marriage.) are listed under this heading. I am in the midst of an item from the letter department: thank you cards for special occasions.

A month ago I got married. We went the traditional route of getting registered at a couple of national chain retail stores so that our guests, who are spread across the United States and Canada, could easily purchase a gift for us if they chose to. A couple of weeks prior to the wedding gifts began coming in. By the time we were leaving town for our special day there were a few boxes and cards that arrived at (now) our house. We were diligent about recording who sent what gift for the purpose of completing and sending out a thank you card, but there were only a handful so we felt okay putting off the thank you cards for them. They can wait, let us enjoy the wedding and honeymoon!

Fast forward two weeks to when we return home. From the wedding we bring home about 15 cards and six or seven gifts. And approximately ten boxes are stacked neatly in our office. Uh-oh. To make matters worse, the week we returned was pretty busy as my wife and I were trying to get caught up at work and prepare for our local reception so no cards were finished then either. The reception was a smashing success and we got several more gifts. The next thing I knew, the number of thank you cards we had to write had increased dramatically.

The generosity of our friends and family was incredible but I was not looking forward to the task ahead of me. There are two ways that you can respond to this situation. The first is the path I chose: deflection. After taking two hours to write personalized thank you’s to my coworkers (all eight of them), I was exhausted. Suddenly, I found I was “too busy” in my schedule to work on them. Those three hours watching the football game or the hour of hanging out with a buddy “were critical” and “had to be done.” I walked past that box of cards/receipts showing what thank you cards were left and “wished that I had time to work on them.” Here we are a month later and guess what, the cards still haven’t been finished. Shocking, I know.

The other way to respond to an unfavorable task is to suck it up and do it. You may not enjoy it but the more that you accomplish now, the less is left later. My wife was a champ at this. She sat down for an hour and a half one night and completed ten cards to send out before we went to a friend’s house for dinner. What did I do? I watched the latest episode of NCIS and checked my email. Look at the result of my wife’s productivity: she made the most of the time available to her and now has the time free to do something she likes while yours truly is still scribing his thank you notes. Point to my wife.

I think you are seeing which path is the right one to take here: don’t fall behind if you can help it. There are life events that take place (special project at work, birth of a child, death in the family, etc.) that can put you behind schedule, and those can’t be helped. But my challenge to you is to work on those times when you fall behind because of…you. Stay on top of your task as much as you can, even if it’s only a small amount of time each day. For me, it’s writing thank you cards. For you, it may be doing the dishes or working on that home remodeling project. Whatever it is, do not brush it aside and let the work pile up or you will pay for it later on.

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