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21 Days to a More Disciplined Life: Get It Done Early

Oh the irony! I’m writing a post after 10 p.m. that was supposed to be finished much earlier today… and the post is on nothing other than getting it done early. As you can see, this is one of those areas of discipline I sorely need to work on. 🙂

I read a post on Simple Mom back in July that rocked my world. It was by one of my favorite people — Mandi Ehman — and it was on The Secret of Success for a Work-At-Home Mom. Here’s a snippet:

So what’s the key to success? Simply put: Get it done early.

This principle applies to your home and family life as well as your business. Whenever possible, get it — whatever it may be — done early and eliminate the stress and frustration of being pulled in a million directions.

Avoid the guilt of shushing your teething baby because of looming deadlines or groaning in frustration when the school nurse calls, or saying no — yet again — to a fun activity with your kids.

Now obviously, since I’m writing this post after 10 p.m., I’ve still got a long way to go in actually practicing this getting-it-done-early principle. But ever since reading this post, I’ve been consciously thinking about how implementing this principle would revolutionize my life–and cut down on a lot of stress!

You see, I’ve always been a late person. I was born 17 days late and it seems I’ve been late ever since. Whether it’s getting to an appointment or getting an article done, I’m almost always running behind–usually either just under the wire or late. Sometimes, really, really late.

In my lifetime, I’ve made a lot of excuses for my tardiness, but most all of them boil down to procrastination, improper prioritization, and a lack of planning ahead:

::Instead of planning to leave 30 minutes before I need to be out the door, I wait until 30 minutes before I need to leave to take my shower, get everyone dressed, gather up all the things we need for the outing, and get everyone out the door.

::Instead of looking at my calendar two or three weeks in advance, planning out articles I need to write, and writing them a week or two in advance, I often wait until the day they are due to even begin outlining them.

…And on and on it goes. No wonder there are many times I run around like a chicken with my head cut off! 🙂

Knowing the problem is good, but that doesn’t fix anything. I actually have to make changes if I want to experience any benefits. So I’m resolving to not just recognize the problem, but actually come up with a solution. Or at least begin working diligently in that direction!

In the next 24 hours, I’m going to sit down and map out a specific plan of action for a few of the areas where I especially struggle with getting things done on time. I’ll let you know my plan of action tomorrow.

Practical Application

1. Read Mandi’s fantastic article, The Secret of Success for a Work-At-Home Mom. Even if you’re not a work-at-home mom or not even a mom, you’ll find some great encouragement in it.

2. Choose one area that you especially struggle with being behind in or running late for.

2. Write down a simple plan for how you are going to stop procrastinating, start planning ahead, and begin getting things done early. Come back and share your plan with us so we can be inspired!

And if you’re one of those amazing people who is always on time or early and always has projects projects done before the deadline, would you do me a favor and share your secrets in the comments? I’d love to learn from you! Seriously. I need all the help I can get in this area!

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  • Mandi says:

    This is terrible…I may have written those words, but I desperately needed to be reminded of them today. I’ve fallen into some bad habits for sure, and I think this was the kick in the pants I needed to get my act together!

    Thanks so much for sharing the post!

  • Jen says:

    I seem to have the opposite problem when it comes to being late. Even with 3 kids 4 and under I always seem to show up early. It all comes down to planning and allowing extra time. First, I usually plan to be 15 min early. We were supposed to be somewhere at 11 this morning but I told myself 10:45. Destination was only 5 min away but I allowed 15 min travel time, so told myself we had to leave by 10:30. Figured 15 min for the two older kids to go potty and get shoes and coats on and get buckled in the van, even though it doesn’t really take that long. And I give my kids a 5 min warning before we have to start getting ready. Sometimes, like today, they just immediately stop what they’re doing and get ready. So today at 10:10 we started getting ready when we didn’t have to be there for another 50 min. Even with the baby needing a diaper change at the last minute we were still plenty early. The only problem with this is that I feel like I do spend a lot of time waiting, when I could be using that time more efficiently and being more productive. An extra 15 min at home could have been enough to get a load of laundry started, wipe off the counters, etc.

    • Debra C says:

      One of the things I learned from FlyLady, is to always have things in a zipper binder that you can work on during those waits. Bills can be paid if you keep them in there along with stamps. Or you could work on a grocery list or menu plan. Or whatever you have that needs doing that could be put into a zipper binder and taken with you.

      I personally use a lot of my wait time for reading. I have both the Kindle and B&N Reader apps on my phone, along with a Bible app. So I can work on my daily bible reading, or read a book.

    • Julie says:

      I’m an in-betweener….sometimes I’m early, sometimes I’m running late. I really hate being late but have realized why it happens more now that I have children. I do not like showing up early to some place and having to wait in the car with antsy children, lol. I used to take my coupons to organize when my son was a baby b/c I knew he’d fall asleep. But now, they are too active and it takes us at least 20 minutes to get anywhere so they are ready to get out when we stop. Now, it seems like we’re always running a few minutes late and I guess it’s b/c I don’t want to sit and wait. Hmmm…wondering how I should handle this. I also forget that I have a newly potty-trained toddler and there are many potty stops wherever we are that eat up time. Last week at church, it took 20 minutes to get everyone settled before I could sit in church….I guess it’s the season we’re in too.

  • Lisa says:

    I have never been one of those amazing people, at least not naturally. My dad, however, is. He does everything right away and is always exactly on time. I honestly think his secret is that when something needs to be done, he just does it. For example, he always got up at 5 a.m. to get our day started smoothly. My mom always assumed he was naturally an early riser until they retired and he slept in until 7 a.m.! All those years, he forced himself out of bed before the rest of us simply because it needed to be done. Now that I’m expecting our first child, I hope I can channel some of his “just-do-it-ness.”

  • Meg says:

    I think paring down your life to the basics–as Crystal often mentions–is a big component to getting stuff done on time. If I have a big project due in three weeks, everything in my life but the essentials get thrown out or put on hold for those three weeks. Otherwise, I’d be too distracted and overwhelmed by all the stuff on my plate to focus, and I’d end up staying up all night the night before weeping into my desk. 🙂 And if I know I have to be somewhere early the next day, I enlist my husband’s help in getting my daughter ready in the morning so all I have to think about is the task ahead of me.

    Those are my favorite tricks for meeting deadlines/being on time…making lots of room in my schedule and accepting help from others. (Those are good rules for everything in life, really!)

  • Bethany says:

    What a great post, and fantastic comments, too! I have two children under the age of 3 and telecommute 30 hours per week, and have a part-time photography business. I’m fairly organized but some days (weeks? months?) feel like I’m running to stand still. I rarely miss a deadline, but I sure do struggle when it comes to getting out the door early or on time. Three things that do work for me were also mentioned by others: (1) I always prep everything for the next day before going to bed, (2) I work backward from my desired departure time, subtracting time for each task that needs to be done, and then I plan for a 30-minute buffer on top of that, and (3) I force myself to get up early enough to do whatever I need to accomplish, plus allow myself time to shower and dress 100% before the kids are awake. I still fail, but I’m a work in progress and I’m improving all the time. Last weekend my husband was out of town andthe kids and I made it to church a little early (a first!), even while juggling a crockpot full of soup and a batch of your Easy Italian Breadsticks for the potluck. I was grinning ear to ear!

  • Susan says:

    I’ve enjoyed this post and all the comments. We do tend to fall into two camps, it seems. I recognize the importance of respecting other peoples’ time, but I don’t think it’s “arrogant” to be late.

    My experience/perspective is a little different from the comments I have read. I’m one who often waits until the last minute to do something. Not all people work well under pressure, but I truly do. I tend to use as much time as I have available. If something needs to be finished one week from today, it will take me the entire week, and I’ll be finishing it just when it’s due. If I have two weeks, even if I start the week earlier, it will take me two weeks to do it, and I’ll still be getting it done just when it’s due. Therefore, for me, I can get often get something done in less time overall if I delay starting it. When a deadline is looming, I just hustle and get it done. I can work really fast when I need to. And quality does not suffer — I can get to the same result in half the time if all I have is half the time.

    As far as being on time goes, that is something I can certainly improve on. I usually manage it, but too often I underestimate how long it will take me to get somewhere. When it really matters, like if I need to be at a business meeting or dentist appointment or whatnot, I make it on time, even it it means a frantic mad dash, unless I get stuck in traffic or something, in which case that’s what cell phones are for.

    For casual things like meeting friends for dinner or whatnot, I’m not bothered when they are late, as long as there is communication. I have one particular friend who is habitually late, and I just factor that in. 6:00 mountain time = 6:30 “susie” time, in which case I’ll aim for 6:15.

    My step-dad, however, is the most punctual person I know, and it drives him crazy when anyone is late. If the plan is to leave the house at 9:00, then we’d better be in the car at 9:00 or he’ll be awfully unhappy. I respect that about him, so in those situations I make sure my daughter and I are ready when he is.

  • Debra C says:

    I found that after having my second child, I began running late for *everything*. So, since I put just about everything into my phone so that it reminds me of all appointments, I just started setting it so that it went off two hours before I needed to be somewhere. While my son was still itty bitty, sometimes that two hours wasn’t enough (usually because I’d get everything ready and then he’d want to nurse right before it was time to go), but now that he’s almost a year old, I find that I get ready and then have time to snuggle with the kids or get a little something to eat before I leave for work or wherever.

    I also have a terrible sense of time so if I’m not paying attention, it’ll suddenly be way past lunch or dinner time and I haven’t even thought about it. So I also have alarms set on my phone to remind me that it’s time to fix a meal. And a reminder for an hour before bedtime to let me know that it’s time to clean up and get baths taken care of. I probably rely on my phone way more than I should, but as long is it keeps me getting things done, I don’t care that much.

  • ClareC. says:

    Ay, yi,yi, Crystal! Now you’re stepping on my toes. I felt fine when you kept talking about getting up early. With a hubby teacher, 3 kids at his middle school , and 1 in elem., I always have to get up early, but this is so me. I have always been a procrastinator and I know I’ve heard that procrastination is often related to perfectionism. When I feel concerned that I won’t do everything perfectly, it’s hard to even to get started. Extend yourself grace. Sometimes I have to tell myself that getting started is a good thing, even if I can’t finish the project exactly as I had envisioned it.

    And moms of small kids, take heart. One of the most amazing days to me was the day that all of my kids could put on their own socks and shoes. 🙂 We are able to now make it almost anywhere on time…

  • Lisa says:

    I LOVE it!! In a middle school parent teacher conference I quoted to the parents,”Lack of prior planning on your child’s part does not create an emergency on mine.” My administrator loved it!

    I ran right over to read Mandi’s post and was nodding my head with every point. I am a hugely efficient person and the best tip I have…

    Work your to do list in the most efficeint way by: 1. making others work for you, 2. Making your machines wirk for you, and 3. just “getter” done.

    Hmmm, I think I might just go wrote that blog post right now…


  • I’m a planner, but I’m always late for everything! Usually I just try to do too many things at the last minute. My college roommate decided to tell me a time 10 minutes before I had to be somewhere, knowing that then I would be on-time. One of the ways I’ve gotten better at it is just by getting up and dressed at a regular time. With showers, dressing, breakfast, and other morning things out of the way, I’m more likely to be on time to other things throughout the day. 🙂

  • jen says:

    I was reminded of this simple lesson this past week. Over the weekend, I didn’t run any errands b/c I figured I’d get everything done the first couple of days this week. Well, two of my kids got sick, and stayed sick, so I did NOTHING. Hubby had to come home early today so that I could go run my errands this afternoon, in a rush to get what I need for tomorrow’s T-giving dinner. Always, esp. if you have kids (I have four and a work from home job), get stuff done when you have the chance.

  • B.FREE says:

    It’s always a challenge, but a consorted effort is a good start. I actually set appts in my phone for 30 min earl. By the time the appt rolls around I don’t want to take a chance with the actual time. Also I tell my family an earlier time for any event that we all attend. That way when we are late, we are really on time. I do it for my late friends too, tee hee!

  • Beth says:

    I struggle with being on time as well. I am much improved with effort to be better but I believe that this is an area I will always have to be intentional about as it is certainly NOT natural. Tips frOm others that have helped me, especially with the addition of children: 1) don’t plan on what time you have to leave to get somewhere, plan on the time that you need to leave your home (in other words, out of my house and getting in the car 15 min before we need to pull out of the driveway). This allows for getting the crew out of the door, strapped into car seats, the lost shoe, the forgotten whateve that I have to run back in for, etc. 2) inane emergency “kits” everywhere ( not “real” emergencies but everyday life stuff like soiled clothes, forgotten snack). I have a kid kit in each vehicle with various items, have a mini kit for myself in my purse (stain pen, band-aids, toothbrush/toothpaste, sewing kit, stamps, blank note cardsand envelopes, etc). Basket of small toys in car also. 3) have getting out the door stuff stored by back door ( we have the space in our mud room) – shoes, jackets, hats, book bags, my purse and a larger bag to throw things in if needed, hats, an extra pair of socks for each child.

    I certainly don’t have it down and I continually strive for not just on- time but peacefully on time. For now, I am happy with we did it on time!! :o)

  • Audrey says:

    AHHH this post is me. It’s so funny, because I always tell people exactly the same thing…. I was born 3 weeks late and have been late ever since!

    I have been working on being on time to church. I’m now finally at a place where I’m on time or early 80-90% of the time. Unfortunately, it’s taken me 2 years to get to that place. 🙁 But hey, I’m there! I do it by planning WAYYY ahead. I get everything ready the night before… EVERYTHING. I lay out everyone’s clothes (I have 3 kids, 4, 2, and 6 weeks), pack the diaper bag, get breakfast dishes out, prepare breakfast to go in the oven, write out a to-do list for the morning, etc. to simplify my morning. I have to be at church at 10:30 (the church is about 8 minutes from my house), so I always plan to be LEAVING the house by 9:30. When I plan to leave by 9:30, I usually get out the door by 10:15.
    I’ve been working on this for two years and I finally have it down! Of course, now my husband has to be there at 10, so I have to plan to be out the door by 9. But I now have a system! I am on time or early more often than not.

    But yeah, it takes a TREMENDOUS amount of effort for me to get somewhere on time. And I ALWAYS have friends text me when they’re coming over. Even if I know for weeks in advance, if they text me and say “on my way”, that’s when I start cleaning for them to coming over…. even if they’re 10 minutes away. I never clean before they come, it’s always when I know they’re on their way. It’s terrible! But I don’t know how to change it! That will be the next thing I will work on after I am able to be on time to things other than church.

    And a lot of people try to help inspire me to be on time by saying things like “It’s rude to be late” or “By being late, you’re saying that you’re more important than they are” or things like that, but it absolutely does not inspire or motivate me to be on time… all it does is make me feel even more guilty than I already do! It’s not that I don’t TRY to be on time… I try all the time!! It’s just that it takes about 293480598 times more effort for me to be on time than it does for those people who are naturally on time or early for everything (like my sister). And, quite frankly, sometimes I get tired of trying so hard and failing! So it’s really discouraging when people tell me it’s rude to be late.

  • Nicole says:

    I think there is a connection of procrastination and working under pressure. I have to have a degree of pressure to really focus. So I naturally wait until I feel the heat.

  • MrsH says:

    What a great post! This is so true, and I’ve enjoyed browsing through the comments.

    I used to be an on-time/early person. I used to believe that if someone was late to meet with me it showed a lack of respect for me. Then I became a mother…

    Now I often have to choose between being somewhere on time, or showing that extra little love/patience toward my kids. We have NOT cracked the “getting out the door” formula. Sometimes we can do it in five minutes, other times it takes 20+. My son in particular is very unpredictable and has anxiety problems. The more I rush him, the longer it takes. I now regularly show up late for places, knowing that it averted a complete panic attack for him. It’s been a conscious choice, and often when planning with people now I say “how about we get there around 10?” Or even giving a time-range: “we’ll get there between 10 and 10:30.”

    In the end, it’s not a sign of disrespect for the person. It’s a sign of respect for me and my kids, knowing that we’re not going to stress and freak out over 5-10 minutes.

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