What is the trigger that tells you it’s time to buy toothpaste? Is it when you’re squeezing the last little bit out of the tube? Or, is it when you take the last unopened tube from under the counter? How you answer this question speaks volumes about your entire approach to deadlines and either the stress, or lack of stress, they cause.

In the tooth paste scenario, the person who adds “Buy toothpaste” to the list when there is none left has created an urgency, and a trivial urgency at that. Buying toothpaste becomes a “must do” for the next day. There may be no other shopping items to get, yet we’re going to make a trip to the store for that lone tube. If our favorite brand is out of stock, we either settle for something else, or shop somewhere else. Needless to say, we will be paying the regular price for toothpaste.

What about the one for whom the “buy toothpaste” trigger occurs with the last unopened tube is taken from the cabinet under the sink? If toothpaste is bought tomorrow, that’s fine. If it doesn’t get bought until next week or even next month, that’s fine too, because there is enough to last. Surely there will be a great coupon for toothpaste along the way! If our favorite brand is sold out, no problem. Next time we go shopping, the new shipment will surely have arrived.

One of the keys to minimizing stress is to work ahead of deadlines. You work at a pace that is refreshing rather than frantic. You work on activities that fit together naturally – running a bunch of errands at once, or paying a whole stack of bills at once. You are driven by efficiency, what offers the most “bang for the buck,” instead of jumping from one fire to the next.

Work ahead of deadlines, and you give yourself the gift of time. The “Julie Andrews Hour” ran during 1972 and 1973. Andrews closed each episode with the song “Time is My Friend.” The lyrics are as follows:

Time is my friend for ev’ry time we meet
The time we spend is tender and sweet
Sweet songs to sing
And pretty words to rhyme
And memories that cling thanks to time

Quiet parks to walk
And long talks to talk
And tall hills to climb
And mountains of time

Then time to go
For everything must end
I’ll see you soon I know
Knowing time is my friend

It’s time now to go
For everything must end
I’ll see you soon I know
Knowing time is my friend

For the one who works ahead of deadlines, time is a friend!