I hate waste and the older I get the more it drives me crazy. Waste of any kind frustrates me, but nothing irks me more than wasting time.
It’s been a lifelong battle and yet when I say this people are surprised. I am one of the most productive time wasters you could meet. Yes, I accomplish a lot but the trouble is I only have two speeds—overdrive or stalled. There’s no middle ground and both exhaust me. On one end of the spectrum it takes a lot more momentum to get going and on the other there’s no time to catch your breath.
It’s a vicious cycle to say the least and one I’ve never had a great deal of success breaking free from. Project after project I promise to give myself more time to clear the gate and make it to the finish line only to find I’m behind. It’s de-moralizing, but recently I’ve made some unexpected progress in my lifelong pursuit of “more time.”
In February I traveled to San Diego with a group of folks from church to attend Donald Miller’s Storyline Conference. I didn’t expect the conference would talk about time management so I was surprised when the subject came up. It made sense though. Finding your subplot in God’s story and pursuing it takes time. In fact, it requires time more than money. Most people think of it the other way around but Miller de-bunks that myth.
He talked about his own struggles and I could relate to everything he said. It felt like he was living my life so I was dying to know what helped him? Was it a new planning system, a re-ordering of priorities or just sheer willpower? The answer was a little bit of all of those things but from a more strategic perspective. This involved understanding why you procrastinate in the first place. A concept so simple it never occurred to me.
To help with that discovery Miller recommended a book called, “The Now Habit,” by Neil Fiore. The name of the book resonated with me so deeply I downloaded it on my iPad that night. I couldn’t put it down because for the first time I was engaged in a conversation about why I waste time rather than why that’s bad.
It was liberating. Where I blamed what I assumed was some deep-seeded laziness or lack of organization on my part I came to see that’s not the case. It’s neither of those. I’m just normal. Procrastinating isn’t about being a slug it’s about pain relief. People procrastinate because it relieves the stress associated with getting done what needs doing. Which begs the question why is the “To Do” list so stressful?
For everyone the answer is different but for me it’s about boredom. On a daily basis I have a long list of things that need to be done that I consider very tedious and boring. Since that work is unpleasant, I put it off as long as possible. They aren’t difficult tasks but they offer little gratification making it hard to get motivated. So, I wait until the last possible minute and then I grit it out which only makes the problem worse.
What’s the remedy? Turn things around. Start with the work that excites me (ministry) for thirty minutes a day no matter what and use that as the momentum to tackle the things that don’t. A simple idea but one I’ve always felt too guilty to embrace. My Puritan work ethic has led me to believe that I don’t get to make that choice. I always have to start with what’s the most pressing even if it’s something I hate.
Changing my tact took a leap of faith but since giving it a try I’ve become exponentially more productive. I’m happier too because I know I’ve accomplished something I think may benefit God’s Kingdom. My friends and family might not notice a difference but only because I’ve had them fooled. But, God knows and my spirit knows there’s less waste and that feels good.
So, what’s at the root of your battle with procrastination? Do you know? If God’s work here on earth could benefit from you finding out would you? I hope so.