A few weeks ago I wrote about one of the simplest yet most impactful things I do each day: create a simple “to-do” list. I was trying to demonstrate the value of taking just 5 minutes to plan your day by using God-given goals and a commitment to bless others. However, I’ve just realized that I forgot to tell you one of the essential steps in this important process of daily planning. It’s so easy but it is absolutely crucial. I can’t believe it slipped my mind! Without doing this one little thing, I don’t believe I could effectively prepare for the day before me. What I’ve learned is that I must each and every day throw yesterday away. Please allow me to explain.
Each morning as I sit down at my desk, after a time of prayer (and a cup of coffee, of course) I begin thinking over what needs to be accomplished. However, before I write down any of the day’s tasks or objectives, I take just a few seconds to look at my list from the day before. I quickly scan over what items got crossed off and which ones didn’t. Then I take that list, tear it off my notepad, and throw it in the trash. It may not sound like much, but this is a vital part of the process to prepare for the day ahead. That simple act of throwing out a piece of paper is my way of saying, “Yesterday is done. Today is here.”
On some days, “throwing yesterday away” is something I can’t wait to do. This usually happens when the previous day has been a huge bust. If I had an unproductive day, faced some unexpected trials, or just made a big mess of things with stupid mistakes, then I don’t want to linger on those things any longer than I have to. This is where some people really struggle. They let yesterday’s mistakes becomes today’s disappointments. Throwing my list in the trash reminds me that no matter how yesterday went, I’ve got a brand new day in front of me. I don’t have to make the same mistakes again or react to today’s issues the same way I did yesterday. I need the daily reminder that God’s “mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning.” (Lamentations 3:22-23)
However, while “throwing yesterday away” is important after experiencing a bad day, it is actually much more crucial after having a good day, a day filled with successes and accomplishments. Let me give you an example from Scripture to demonstrate my point. I’m sure that most of are familiar with the Bible passage concerning King David and his adulterous encounter Bathsheba in 2 Samuel 11, but do you remember how that all began?
In the spring of the year, the time when kings go out to battle, David sent Joab, and his servants with him, and all Israel. And they ravaged the Ammonites and besieged Rabbah. But David remained at Jerusalem. (2 Samuel 11:1, ESV)
“But David remain at Jerusalem.” When all the other kings where heading out with their armies, David stayed home. King David had led Israel to experience many glorious victories and a prosperity and security previously unknown. I’m sure that David felt pleased with all that had been accomplished and that he deserved a rest. However, David’s vacation ended up costing him more than he could have ever imagined.
This small detail is included in Scripture because God wants you and I to understand the danger of resting on yesterday’s victories. Sometimes as I review my previous day’s list and I see that I accomplished many things or stayed committed to my goals, I’m tempted to “let off the gas” and coast by on yesterday’s successes. I can be thankful for what was done yesterday and I can enjoy the benefits that may come my way because of that, but I still need to take full advantage of today.
As you begin your day, do me a favor and throw yesterday away. No matter what happened, whether good or bad, it is done and gone. Yesterday’s mistakes don’t have to be repeated, and yesterday’s victories should only encourage you to find more victory today.
“The Lifebuilder’s Creed”
By Dale Witherington
Today is the most important day of my life.
Yesterday with its successes and victories, struggles and failures
is gone forever.
The past is past.
I cannot relive it. I cannot go back and change it.
But I will learn from it and improve my Today.
Today. This moment. NOW.
It is God’s gift to me and it is all I have.
Tomorrow with all its joys and sorrows, triumphs and troubles isn’t here yet.
Indeed, tomorrow may never come.
Therefore, I will not worry about tomorrow.
Today is what God has entrusted to me.
It is all that I have. I will do my best in it –
my character, giftedness, and abilities –
to my family and friends, clients and associates.
I will identify those things that are most important to do Today,
and those things I will do until they are done.
And when this day is done
I will look back with satisfaction at that which I have accomplished.
Then, and only then, will I plan my tomorrow,
Looking to improve upon Today, with God’s help.
Then I shall go to sleep in peace…content.