You know the feeling you get when an appointment approaches on your calendar and you’re not looking forward to it? Maybe you’re even dreading it?

Ugh, I totally forgot about that, you think. But I guess I need to to do it, since I agreed long ago.

We’ve all been there. Some of us find ourselves there all the time. The good news is, there’s a trick to make that happen less and less.

It comes from understanding that when someone asks you to do something you don’t really want to do, you’re more willing to agree if it takes place far into the future.

You tend to think, “Oh, that’s a long time from now. I’m not thrilled about the idea, but sure, I can do that.”

Maybe it seems easier to accept the request than it would be to decline, even if declining is in your best interest. Maybe you’re just not thinking about the future at all—after all, it’s the future.

But then, as the date approaches, you feel more and more resistance to the commitment you made. “Why did I agree to this?” you might ask yourself. And you end up doing something that you didn’t want to, all because you agreed to it long ago.

How does this happen over and over?

The answer lies in that principle of not thinking properly about time. You agreed to it against your better judgment, simply because it seemed far away. The solution—the trick, the hack, call it what you will—is to evaluate each potential commitment as if it were a request for your time tomorrow.

When someone asks you for a meeting, a call, or any other commitment that requires your time … evaluate the request as if they were asking you to do it tomorrow. If you’d happily do it then, great! Accept the request without hesitation. But if you’re not into it, say no.

Time is your most precious asset, and you need to protect it.

After all, there’s no time like the present—or the future.

Chris Guillebeau is the New York Times bestselling author of The Happiness of Pursuit, The $100 Startup, and other books. During a lifetime of self-employment, he visited every country in the world (193 in total) before his 35th birthday. Every summer in Portland, Oregon he hosts the World Domination Summit, a gathering of creative, remarkable people. His new book, Born for This, will help you find the work you were meant to do. Connect with Chris on Twitter, on his blog, or at your choice of worldwide airline lounge.

Image courtesy of STIL.