Do you lay out your clothes for the next day before you go to bed?
We think of time as very linear, but I think that holds us back a bit when we’re trying to be proactive. We can skip around a little! Time can be more like location in space.
There’s this thing called the “Traveling Salesman” problem, which is a math problem where you use certain variables to calculate the most efficient route between many different stops, with potentially different travel times on different roads and different times spent at each location, etc. Actual salespeople do this all the time; in fact, there are even apps and such where you plug in all your stops and it drives you all around. It may often seem like a tangled route, but if everything is done correctly it actually saves you time.
So, you have a task you have to do. But maybe it’s somehow “time-locked,” in that you can’t actually work directly on the task yet. Perhaps you’re waiting for an email from someone, maybe you had to order a replacement part and it won’t arrive for a week, maybe it requires access to a workspace that’s currently closed. So even though the task might be important and you have lots of time right now, you don’t do anything.
Maybe you can’t work directly on the task. But we can almost always work indirectly on tasks in ways that will reduce our total time on the main event.
Like laying out your clothes for work the next day before you go to bed. Your work might be closed, so you can’t get a jump-start on actually getting there. But you can “advance the cause” in preparation now. Builds a buffer against future impediments.
So you don’t have the email yet. Small tasks: you can open up the draft of your response and type in everything that you can before you have the final info. Replacement part isn’t here, but you can take out the bad part, prep the tools. You can’t get to the workspace you need, but you can print out the instructions so you don’t have to do it there, wasting time.
See, we can jump around a little back and forth in time, if it helps us do things. Helps us take action. Reduces future cost.