One of the things I’m working on these days is becoming more of a front-loader.
The dictionary defines front-loading as,
arranging or planning (a schedule, project, or process, for example) so that a large portion of activity occurs in an early period.
Historically, I’ve been more of a back-loader. For example, in school I would often wait until the last minute to do homework or study for an exam. This approach allowed me to have fun upfront, but inevitably resulted in lots of stress, cramming, and not enough sleep.
I had classmates who would do the work as soon as it was assigned, but I never understood that. I had better things to do!
Looking back, I can see how wise they were. They didn’t necessarily enjoy doing homework either, but they knew that the sooner it was done, the sooner they could relax and do something more enjoyable.
Putting things off until the last minute has some serious drawbacks:
- It puts you in a reactive mode rather than a proactive mode. You become the passenger instead of the driver.
- It adds unnecessary stress by creating situations where you need to scramble.
- It drains you of energy by creating internal conflict. Your brain “knows” that thing needs to get done, even if you try to forget about it.
- It leads to lower quality work. You don’t think as well when you’re stressed.
- It reveals misplaced priorities and immaturity. The wise work, then play.
- It’s ignorant and arrogant because it assumes that there will be no last-minute problems, interruptions, setbacks, or emergencies. We often don’t know how long something will take until we start doing it.
There’s a work ethic issue at play here, too. Proverbs 6 says,
Go to the ant, you sluggard;
consider its ways and be wise!
It has no commander,
no overseer or ruler,
yet it stores its provisions in summer
and gathers its food at harvest.
So basically, there’s wisdom in planning, being a self-starter, doing the right things at the right times, and not needing to be micromanaged every step of the way. Front-loading accomplishes all of these.
But like anything, getting there is a process.
A few weekends ago our family went to Ohio for Christmas. I wanted to get the house dusted before we left, so I did. Unfortunately, I didn’t give myself enough time to pack, and that ended up making us late.
Obviously, I should have packed first, then dusted, and just finished any remaining rooms when we got home. But to be honest, I wasn’t thinking ahead or prioritizing all that well.
Thankfully, I wised up on the day of our return. We were scheduled to leave at 7 and I had everything packed by 5:30. Yay! This left me plenty of time to relax in the hotel lobby, eat a leisurely breakfast, and enjoy some quality time with my son before we headed out.
Getting better at front-loading doesn’t have to be that difficult. It’s really as simple as following these three steps:
- Identify time-sensitive tasks and appointments. Be aware of upcoming deadlines, meetings, trips, etc.
- Prioritize them by preparing for them ahead of time. Leave yourself plenty of margin. Don’t put yourself in a situation where you have to hurry and stress because of poor planning.
- Enjoy the feeling of getting things done before they’re due. Now you can take a break or do less important work at your own pace without that deadline hanging over your head.
It’s worth noting that a lot of personal growth comes back to our mindset and how we see ourselves. If you’re a chronic back-loader, that’s not going to change unless you start seeing yourself as someone who can be early. If you want to learn more, I recommend reading this, then coming back to the steps.
Happy front-loading and enjoy the breathing room.