Tuesday, November 14, 2006


Deb, over at Constantly Abiding, has written on procrastination. Click on the title of this piece to view some art and her words on the subject.

I’ve given this some thought and this thought turned itself into a post. Of course, by doing this, I am neglecting to finish the story I have to tell in front of 1,500 people on December 2, 2006. But at least I am doing something! And it involves creativity.

Procrastination is the dreaded twin of perfectionism. Perfectionism is the good twin, always clean and prompt, always saying the right thing. Procrastination is the outwardly compliant child, who seethes with inner rebellion. She is the one who desires success and fears failure to the point of immobility.

My father always claimed that life was short. By repeating this endlessly, he hoped to spur my brother and me on to action. This became a family slogan. ‘Life is short.’ ‘Life is short.’ We should have it on a coat of arms. But I never truly believed my father until I myself reached my fifties. There is nothing like the brevity of time to spur a soul to action. Life goals become urgent goals when one can see the horizon of old age.

One thing that always interfered with my beginning a project was the certain knowledge that I would run into obstacles to its smooth completion. Now I have embraced this notion as a friend and give myself some time to resolve these obstacles without adding to the time-line stress of the project. Sometimes I just look at procrastination as planning time...time to figure out how I am going to tackle something.

Strangely, procrastination is related to impatience. I want the job done and I want it done yesterday. Since that is impossible, I don't begin at all. But amazingly, I am learning to calculate the length of time it will take me to complete a project and budget in difficulties and fatigue. I am actually tackling my ridiculous kitchen cabinets in this way...with small roller and tiny brush, a bank of cabinets at a time. It is so much better than trying to cram the whole project into an eight hour push.

Then, if a task is boring, I find music, conversation or an interesting documentary to provide the background intellectual stimulation required for the completion of the job. At my age, time is compressed. I multitask on tedious tasks; quietly clean out a cupboard while talking on the phone, for instance.

I suspect when it comes down to it, I will procrastinate about dying. I will linger on the brink of eternity, gazing over into the Promised Land and tarry, hoping to get one or two more things accomplished before the next life. Which is totally ridiculous!

What does the Lord require of us? Do we procrastinate about those things? Living justly? Loving mercy? Walking humbly? It seems to me that it might be possible to do these things while walking down the street. They aren't something to procrastinate about. They are a way of being in the world which obviates the necessity to accomplish anything at all.

In the end, self acceptance and forgiveness will go a long way to healing the problem of procrastination. I get more done when I am not nagging myself to death. And I think this pleases God who welcomes loving service as opposed to grudging obedience.

1 comment:

Deb said...

What wonderful, wise thoughts from a most wonderful, wise woman! Thank you.

1,500 people??? Do tell.