Work backward


In January 2010, I had been in my Toastmasters club for about fifteen months and had given only five speeches during that time. I wanted to accelerate my timeline, and I decided wanted to complete my tenth speech, achieving the Competent Communicator designation, on my 34th birthday in mid-November. (I really know how to live it up!)


So I worked backward. I put it on paper. To get to speech #10 by November, I had to complete six speeches in ten months, starting in mid-January. I calculated how often I'd have to give a speech to meet my goal, and then started signing up for speech dates. To further ensure I would reach the goal and to reinforce my plan, this goal and my plan to get there was my speech topic that January night. This also added public accountability. Sure enough, when November 16 came around, I celebrated my birthday by giving my tenth speech. I had achieved the goal. Had I not started by identifying the November end date and working backward to see if it was even feasible, I definitely wouldn't have completed so many speeches in such a short time period.


Of course, working backward can help in much smaller ways too.


Each winter we help with the Pennsylvania State Snowshoe Championships race, which my father-in-law directs at a local ski slope. Each year we end up driving way too fast to ensure we arrive before the first competitors do, because we leave our house too late. This year when considering when to wake up we worked backward from when we needed to arrive, factored in how long it would take to get there, how long it takes to make coffee and eat breakfast, how long to get ready, and then included time to hit snooze once or twice. It worked and we arrived on time. This makes so much sense when I stop to think about it, but too often I don't take the few minutes it takes to actually think about it.


So what time should you leave for that event tomorrow morning? Well, when do you want to be in the building you're headed to? How long will it take you to walk there from the parking lot if you're driving or from the train or bus stop? How long will the actual drive or ride take? What time do you need to be fully dressed and nourished to leave on time? How long does it take to get ready and eat? If you add in a few minutes to each step of the journey, you should know when to get up to be ready in time. If you really want to get specific, you can even make a note for yourself about when you should be doing each thing so you know if you're on time or not. (I did this for a baby shower I was in charge of planning, and people have commented how that was the best shower they've attended because everything moved so smoothly and those who wanted to were able to get out of there in two hours, which was my goal!)


Need to meet a certain deadline or arrive at a certain time?


Work backward.


Photo by Kelsey Dody on Unsplash

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"Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you've imagined."

    - Henry David Thoreau