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.
Several years ago, a friend of mine wrote an article under the above title. He began by telling of a colleague whose philosophy is: When in doubt, delegate; when confused, meditate; when in trouble, hallucinate; when all else fails, procrastinate! I’m sure he picked this up from some source unknown to us today.
Though few ever articulate it as such, this is a common approach to life, especially the final item. The problem of procrastination is pervasive. It sabotages church ministries, ruins careers, harms relationships and, as most can attest, it causes untold emotional misery.
To procrastinate, according to Webster, is to “repeatedly put off something that is supposed to be done.” Who doesn’t occasionally do this? Some, however, have perfected the practice. For example, Les Waas, a Philadelphia executive, is the first and only president of the Procrastinators Club of America. He says it is difficult to select a Procrastinator of the Year. The nominating committee never gets around to submitting candidates. In fact, they all share a common belief that anything really worth doing is worth putting off.
Well, the idea of a procrastinators’ club is humorous. But, procrastination is not. As leaven permeates a whole lump of dough, so, also, one procrastinator stymies many. One need not look too deeply into the life of most churches to notice its impact. Well-conceived programs die in their tracks for lack of follow through; preachers put off sermon preparation until the last minute and deliver sub-par sermons (ouch!); evangelistic Bible studies and “follow-up” work will become a priority some day; absentees are missed when attendance is taken but are not contacted; we know we should visit those in the hospital; many are willing to volunteer to teach a Bible class, but just not right now; and… Well, the list could continue. Praise God that many good things get done in spite of our human weakness! Right?
Likewise, many homes feel the effect of procrastination. There are leaky faucets, cluttered garages, unpaid bills, library fines, overdue movies to return and bedrooms that need to be cleaned. More devastating, though, are the “I love you’s” that go unspoken and the “I’m sorry’s” that never get said. All the while, the totally-too-busy parent placates himself saying, “One day, when… Then, I’ll spend more time with the kids. One day, when… I’ll become involved with the school. One day, when… I’ll concern myself with my child’s social and spiritual development.” Unfortunately, “One day, when…” seldom ever comes!
The solution is simple, but not easy. Breaking bad habits is always tough. Still, something must be done to break the cycle of procrastination. First, decide to change. Realizing the impact of procrastination on your own life and the lives of those close to you can be a heavy burden. Rather than letting this weigh you down, let it be what motivates you to change.
Second, be a doer, not a stewer. We sometimes fret so much over what’s not done that we don’t have any creative energy left to begin even the simplest of tasks. Things will come up, causing us to modify our plans. This doesn’t mean that all is lost. Handle the urgent matters promptly. Filter out uninvited, undesirable intrusions like they were junk emails.
There is nothing wrong with doing what needs to be done now! In fact, this is an important lesson for procrastinators. Yes, there are a lot of unpleasant, inconvenient things in life that must be done. It’s not unusual to feel uncomfortable about doing some things. While we do not always get to choose when we do them, we do get to choose our attitude. Thus, we should be doers, not stewers.
Third, it’s better if you take baby steps. Don’t try to do too much too soon. You don’t have to attack the monsters in your cluttered closet during your first day in battle. Do you have a long list of things you’re gonna’ do someday? Rather than tackling the mega-tasks, first tackle a mini-task or two—things you can do in a single day—maybe even an hour or two. Develop winning ways and build on this success. Remember: Yard-by-yard; it’s very hard. Inch-by-inch; it’s a cinch. Become a doer, not a stewer!
© Bill Williams, August 24, 2005
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