I have been wrapping my head around this question. Not “What do I do first?” but “What do I do last”? I flipped it around when I felt like I had more to do than time to do it. Not an uncommon feeling for many and getting started can be difficult, so I began with the ending. Like visualizing how you want things to be or feel, seeing a project completed or feeling great about a party you hosted, you focus on the end result and prioritize from that point. But what would be my last step or action? Why did it appear that looking at a problem from this point would help?
I decided to apply it for a couple of weeks and see what happened. My first situation was creating a budget for our monthly bills and calculating how much money we needed. We own our own business and take salaries and sometimes distributions. I wanted to deposit enough money into our account to pay the entire month’s bills but I also had bills to print and a couple of weeks of mail to open. When I first get the mail, I tend to only open things that are urgent or extremely important. I asked myself, what is the thing I will do last? Open all the mail was my answer. This seemed counter intuitive because that is usually the first thing I get caught up on. Yet the more I thought about it the more it made sense. This usually creates a pile of paperwork, recycling and shredding, not to mention the bills that are emailed to me that I need to print. Since I create a budget everything month in Excel, I decided to estimate payments I did not know for sure and if necessary, search for one or two envelopes for a specific statement. I was able to figure out what we needed, make the deposit and pay the current bills while the neat stack of envelopes stayed that way until I could focus on only that task.
The next opportunity to ask myself this question came about when I decided that my husband and I would host a lunch in our home for my visiting sister, our family and friends. Getting the house clean, decluttered and ready for feeding many guests can be time-consuming and exhausting. My husband was doing the shopping and cooking which he loves to do. Getting the house ready and clearing off our dining room table which I use as a work space was mine to do. What do I do last? Many things came to mind, more like a list of things that I would like to do if I had the time. That really wasn’t the question. For example, I thought about getting fresh flowers and putting them in a few vases and rearranging the bookshelves so they looked open and highlighted certain books or displayed items like all the designers tell us to do. Wake up!! These were dreams! The last things I would do came to me so that I would not have to do them more than once or took very little time. I would vacuum, clean the bathroom and set out the plates, utensils, serving dishes and wine and water glasses. This end result planning helped me manage my time better and see the house ready for guests. I wasn’t redoing any cleaning or vacuuming and it all was finished with time to spare. It all came together in a beautiful way and we had a lovely afternoon with a house full of people. Dreams do come true! Two of them brought me fresh flowers!
In the past few weeks, I have used this question to get me through a couple of piles of filing, working on pulling information together for our upcoming tax appointment and even with laundry. Washing and drying what takes the shortest time to the longest time works when I am in a time crunch, but when I am doing one or two loads a day, having a load of sheets or towels or items that need to be hung up or lay flat to dry doesn’t really make a difference in my schedule. What works for you? What do you want to do last? See the end result and find out if working from this vantage point gives you a new perspective.