The Paradox of Timing

Timing. There probably isn’t a person on earth who hasn’t struggled with the issue of timing at some point.

It seems that there are two broad schools of thought when it comes to timing:

If you have time, don’t wait for time.

Timing is everything.

On the one hand we have the philosophy that the ultimate priority is to act, as there never is a perfect time. On the other hand, we have the perspective that there actually is a perfect time for things, and that for the best results we should seek to hit this timing.

Which philosophy is right? Or is there truth in both?

Don’t Wait for Time

Everything comes to him who hustles while he waits.

Thomas Edison

In many cases, there is good cause to act rather than to wait. Too many people spend their time waiting for perfect conditions that never arise. This is particularly devastating when it comes to big life goals, which typically cannot be achieved easily. Furthermore, waiting for the perfect time can be a cover for outright procrastination.

On the other hand, this principle can be taken too far. If we always act, even when it doesn’t make sense, we become slaves to the tyranny of the urgent. Our work will become a painful effort, and we will eventually grow frustrated at the never-ending procession of things that have to be done immediately.

Timing Is Everything

To everything there is a season,

A time for every purpose under heaven….

Ecclesiastes 3:1

Many tasks and projects are best completed at the right time, particularly when dealing with the natural world. Putting in the whole garden before the danger of frost is past simply because we have time is a risky way to garden. Likewise, tilling wet soil is a good way to destroy its structure—it’s better to wait until the ground dries out, even if that does mean we miss a few nice work days.

However, in the real world, we rarely get to work under optimal conditions. The sun does not always come out when we would like it to. Sometimes a project is too pressing to merit any delay without harm to property, plants, or animals. In some cases, like it or not, we must settle for close enough.

The Balance

Obviously, then, there is a place for both perspectives. The key is to discern what needs to be done sooner and what can be done later—but always to ensure that the work is done in any case.

Keeping a prioritized to-do list can keep us from succumbing to the tyranny of the urgent while still making sure it all gets done. Note the word prioritized. A common objection to to-do lists is that they keep us focused on the urgent. However, prioritizing the list allows us to balance both the timely and the long-term.

What if we truly can’t take on the next task on the to-do list? Perhaps it is an outdoor project and the weather is rainy. Perhaps we are waiting on supplies to arrive. When we have a legitimate reason to postpone the next to-do, one help is to note the reason we are waiting on the to-do list. This allows us to continue down the list quickly and efficiently, but also protects us from either procrastination or simply getting into the habit of skipping that task in our hurry down the list. There is a very specific benchmark we are waiting to see to proceed, and it has been duly noted.

Our work will proceed much more effectively if we do keep timing in mind, provided that we continue to act.

Helpful Resources

10 Time-Saving Tips for the Farm
Includes more information on taking timing into account when managing outdoor chores.

The Backyard Homestead Seasonal Planner

The Backyard Homestead Seasonal Planner
Our favorite resource for making use of timing on the small farm or homestead. Includes indicators to watch for when monitoring the flow of the seasons, plus advice on what to do when. Read our full review.