11 August 2010

Work Backwards

In the midst of all this moving we're doing, we have a lot of things to do.  And it usually happens like this:

Guess at a timeline
Make tentative plans
Change those plans
Hurry hurry hurry!  Everything has to be done now!

It's not our fault, it's just how things work when you get ready to move.  But the frustrating part is that we still have to plan.  Even with no information.  Otherwise there will never be time to get everything done.

So, we've found the easiest way to deal with all the unknowns is to develop a backwards timeline.  Put due dates on a calendar, last to first.  We always use a physical paper calendar, even with all of our technology. Sometimes there is no replacement for good old pen and paper.  In this case, though, it would be pencil and paper.  Then we figure out each prior due date in order to accomplish the final step (in this case, the date we get on an airplane to move to Europe).

We make a to-do list for each due date as we determine it.  This helps us from being overwhelmed with a huge list.  We do put everything into a master list when we're finished, but it is more a collection of small, manageable steps rather than a big chaotic list that just tends to paralyze.

This can be applied to many situations.  The key is to figure out your end result, and when.  A garage sale in 4 weeks?  The guest bedroom presentable in time for the visitors?  Write it down.  Then break it down.  Then make due dates for each piece.  Then break it down some more until it is simple, manageable, and has concrete action steps.

Make sense?  Good.  Now get to work!

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