My mother used to say things like, “You can’t go out to play until you’ve made your bed” or, “That room isn’t going to clean itself!” Sometimes I wish my mother could live with me. I might get more done. The truth is I am a terrible procrastinator. I hate to admit that. But there it is in black and white. Actually, if there is a procrastinator’s club of shame, I suspect I would have plenty of company.
Have you ever noticed that we don’t usually procrastinate doing the things we are eager to do? Does my friend Nancy want me to call her today? Is there a tennis match on television? Am I thinking about baking brownies or picking up my favorite author’s new release? Well, I’m on it! On the other hand, I can find a million reasons not to balance my checkbook or clean the bathroom.
I have heard several leadership and time management experts say that the first thing we should do every day is tackle one thing we dread doing. Do it and get it behind us. So, for a while now I’ve been trying to do this - with some small success. Some days it is my financial reports for Alongside Women. Other days it is writing an email to begin the initial conversation with a potential supporter. Today it was taking the time to back up my computer. (I don’t know why I hate this task so much. Probably because it is technology related.) I am realizing how freeing it is to start the day with this sort of accomplishment and how much emotional energy I waste on things that sort of hang over my head, waiting to be done.
Here are a few true words on this subject from an old Scottish preacher:
“No unwelcome tasks becomes any the less unwelcome by putting them off till tomorrow. It is only when they are behind us and done that we begin to find that there is a sweetness to be tasted afterwards, and that the remembrance of unwelcome duties unhesitatingly done is welcome and pleasant. Accomplished, they are full of blessing, and there is a smile on their faces as they leave us. Undone, they stand threatening and disturbing our tranquility, and hindering our communion with God. If there be lying before you any bit of work from which you shrink, go straight up to it, and do it at once. The only way to get rid of it is to do it.” Alexander MacLaren
Isn’t that great? Just so you know, Alexander MacLaren lived in the mid 1800’s. He didn’t have to deal with Facebook and CNN or an iPhone to help him perfect procrastination. Yet, apparently he understood the struggle to face daily duties and do them rather than skirt around them. He was right – long before the guys on the current leadership circuit began saying it. There is a certain joy and freedom to be found in looking squarely at the unwelcome task and getting it done. Proverbs 18:9 says, “One who is slack in his work is brother to one who destroys.” Putting something off over and over again is slacking. It is lazy thinking and unwillingness to reign in my mind to DO the thing in front of me.
Do you struggle with procrastination too? Whatever it is, “go straight up to it” and do that thing that has been hanging over your head.