Never Do Today What You Can Put Off Until Tomorrow

last updated: 7 November 2018 (approximate reading time: 3 minutes; 584 words)

We live in a world of constant distraction.

To achieve anything of significance, you need focus and you need focus over a considerable period of time.

When it comes to focus, some people think about trying to identify priorities. Could I instead of forward a simpler rubric: Never do today what you can put off until tomorrow.

Focus

As human beings, we can only do one thing at a time. I get that there’s this notion of multitasking, but multitasking is a delusion. Multitasking is simply an inefficient way to work and should be seen as another distraction which adversely affects productivity.

If you want to achieve, then you need focus.

Focus requires giving all your attention to one task. In actively choosing to do one task, as a direct consequence you are choosing not to do another. If that single task you have chosen to focus on is a task of no import, then the only result you can expect is that tasks that do matter won’t be completed.

In short, if you are actively working on something that could be put off until tomorrow, then, you are not working on something that matters.

Looked at another way, once you have put off everything that doesn’t matter, then when you are left with matters.

What Matters?

What matters—what you do first, what you choose to focus on—is up to you. In my case, an example something that matters is writing a novel, but unless you’re also a novelist, you may not want to spend your time in this manner.

Also, this isn’t simply about work: time with friends and family is equally important. And if you want to spend time with family and friends, then you need to not do something else.

Another aspect when considering what matters is to look at consequences and logical paths. We’re all familiar with learning to crawl, then to walk, and finally running.

If you’re aim is to run and you can’t yet crawl, then even if crawling seems unimportant—since it is not the goal—it is most definitely a task that should probably not be delayed until tomorrow since it will only delay your ultimate goal.

When Tomorrow Comes

If you’re with me so far then, metaphorically, you will have a bunch of tasks that you have put off until tomorrow. And just to be clear—a delayed task is different from one that is simply being ignored.

Any decision made today doesn’t mean the same decision will be made tomorrow. At some point, any delayed task will either:

  • become important
  • become irrelevant

If a delayed task becomes important, then you need to not do something else to make space for that now important task.

Procrastination

The notion of not doing something feels a lot like procrastination, doesn’t it? And we’ve all been taught that procrastination is “a bad thing”.

However, this approach—not doing what doesn’t matter—is different. Here we’re delaying one task in order to do something more important. In other words, we’re only excusing ourselves from one task if we’re actually doing something else more important.

Simply delaying an action is procrastination. Doing something more important is the opposite of procrastination.

Get Out There and Stop Doing

The notion of never do today what you can put off until tomorrow is very counter-intuitive and feels wrong, but it’s a great way for making sure you’re doing what really matters to you.

I can’t finish a piece like this without acknowledging Aaron Burr who coined the maxim.

Filed under

Category: writing
Tags: time management   priorities