Procrastination seems to be the bane of many writers, and it was the first word that popped into my head when I asked the Lord for a topic. Much has been written about it already, but maybe another angle won’t hurt.
I used to be the queen of last minute sprints because I left things too late. ‘I have weeks to finish this... There’s no hurry... I’ll just get a drink (or a snack)... I’ll just do this or that or the other before...‘ I always had a lot of reasons why I didn’t have to start right away, and none of them were meant to be excuses. My brain just had this uncanny ability to fudge facts when it came to time management, and the result was inevitable: last minute writing dashes that just had to succeed somehow. I can’t recount how many nights I spent sitting at my computer, typing away madly, trying to make up for lost time. But most of that is now in the past because of two unexpected encounters.
The first one involved a conversation with a dear old family friend. She lives overseas, and we stay in touch by phone. Not only is she an old friend, she is also a literally old friend; in her 89th year when she told me this story: ‘We had a festival down at the harbour yesterday, and I was looking forward to going all week. But when the time came, I didn’t feel too great and started making excuses: I don’t feel like getting changed…I could watch it on TV tomorrow… What’s an old woman doing walking around the harbour at night anyway… But you know me; I’m like a weed that keeps popping up. My body won’t obey as it used to, but I told that inner Schweinehund of mine to shut up and ship out.' [Schweinehund = pig dog = a metaphorical antagonist that lives within.] We had a laugh. ‘You can’t allow yourself too many excuses,’ she continued, ‘otherwise life passes you by. You have to make yourself get on with it. So I told myself, Just do it! I got up, got dressed, hopped on the 8 o’clock train, and ended up having a jolly good time. Guess when I got back home? It wasn’t before midnight.’
This old lady has always had a great deal of spunk and humour – two qualities that by God’s grace helped her survive the horrors of war. Throughout my life I have admired her for both, and so I took my cue from her spunk and started addressing the ‘pig dog’ that lives within me (don’t be fooled, we all have one). As I took charge and gained more and more control over this ugly adversary, I also remembered a folksy proverb my mother used to quote: ‘Don’t put off until tomorrow what you can do today.’ In German it has a perfect rhyme that makes it memorable, and as you can see, I haven’t forgotten, even after many decades. Every reminder helps.
The second encounter involved the Word of God when I looked for scriptures that might help me keep up the momentum. ‘Go to the ant, you sluggard,’ I read, ‘Consider her ways and be wise, which, having no captain, overseer or ruler, provides her supplies in the summer, and gathers her food in the harvest.’ Proverbs 6:6-8 (NKJV). The sluggard part hit me like a thunderbolt (the NLT uses lazybones) - I certainly didn’t want to be one of those! - and then Ephesians 5:15-17 sealed the deal: “Be very careful then how you live – not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is.” I had no more excuses.
For those of you who are interested in actual strategies for managing procrastination, here’s a great link: http://www.cci.health.wa.gov.au/resources/infopax.cfm?Info_ID=50. As for me, I decided to follow my friend’s Just do it! method and determined not to let that pig dog win. I now write to-do lists and place the most unpleasant tasks at the top. Then I take a big breath and tell myself, “Just do it!” and get started. Once on a roll, it’s fairly easy to keep going, and I love ticking off task after task and having a clean slate by nightfall (most nights, anyway). No more big projects looming over my head, misplaced anxieties or late-night pressure sessions. If I do stay up late these days, it’s because of choice, not because of necessity.
And finally, the biggest bonus of all: I achieve so much more! I’ve even found time to develop a new website to publish resources by various authors. It’s a work in progress, and there are lots of articles and eBooks on my list still waiting to be polished and uploaded, but without procrastination I will get there in good time – and that’s exciting. You may like to download and study the FREE eBook Eternity to Eternity by Dr John Ecob. He did a superb job and included many excellent charts.
Now I will schedule this blog post for Monday and hope that at least some of what I have written will be of benefit to you...
Margaret Lepke reaches many people through her blatantly Christian professional website.
She blogs at Dr Margaret’s Treasure Chest and is currently developing an Internet platform for sound Christian teaching at BiblicalPublications.org