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I’m a deadline-driven procrastinator. If a project doesn’t have a deadline, it will be done the day after never; If it does, it will never be early and
will probably be a wee bit late. I work best under pressure—the ridiculous, self-imposed, pull-an-all-nighter kind of pressure that stresses me out and pulls my family in.

I’m not getting any better, but I try to manage my weakness. If something is not on my calendar, I won’t be there. So I put everything from phone calls to anniversaries on the calendar, with color-coded categories to make it look pretty. I also use Tasks, an electronic To Do list with bells and whistles that pop up on my phone and in my face.

I print endless bulleted lists broken down by home, work, church, etc. with things that need done yesterday, today and tomorrow. I find great joy in checking a box. Done! Finis! Ahhh, accomplishment! Yes, I put things on the list just to cross them off. Brush teeth? Done! Each lunch? Maybe later.

But here’s the problem: at the other end of many of my tasks are real, live, feeling people left in the lurch. A customer whose weekend business depends on me finishing a project. A vendor who can’t pay their staff until I pay them. A friend who feels forgotten.

This recently hit home when I was the empty box on someone’s To Do list. A phone call not returned, a meeting not kept, an email not replied… These may have been items to be checked or appointments to be moved for them, but to me this felt like personal rejection and professional malpractice.

Do you treat Ms. Jones—and your spouse, or your kids, and your coworkers—like tasks or like treasures?

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