Friday, September 10, 2010

Tomorrow, Tomorrow

Most people take care of day-to-day chores through household members. “Only Robinson Crusoe had everything done by Friday.” While many of us procrastinate about household chores, business, and relationships, I can find no reference to God as a procrastinator, one who shuns the work at hand. The psalmist says, “As for God, his way is perfect” (18:10).

One habit that hinders personal progress is procrastination, defined as putting off a task until tomorrow, usually something that is dreaded. But living life on the last minute hand of the clock contributes to frazzled moments. It seems like about once a year, I find the need to write about procrastination, reminding myself of its pitfalls.

What if God grew too lazy to send rain? Has God ever been too distracted by earth’s occupants and forgot to power the sunrise? As occupants, we’re the best and worst reality show ever. But even our shenanigans don’t divert God from his daily work. He has proved himself dependable—not a procrastinator.

People who wait until tomorrow tend to break promises to themselves and others. How many times have I said, “Tomorrow I’ll eat less, wash the car, or balance the checkbook.” But when dawn arrived, excuses marched in with the dust motes.

Life Coaches say the number one reason for avoiding a chore is that the task remains dreaded. Cleaning out the garage, mowing the yard, restoring a friendship—all are more beneficial if done timely. But delays of weeks can bring on avoidable disasters. An admitted procrastinator said, “If it weren't for the last minute, I wouldn't get anything done.”

Sometimes because of other essential work, we delay things that can wait. I just finished another manuscript and sent it on to my publisher, so I’ve spent the last week, going through stacks of paper and filing those away. I’m re-shelving reference books that I needed at hand. I’m now ready to pull out my Weed Eater and chew away tall grasses near sidewalks.

But I identified several chores that I habitually put off. I don’t mind hard work, but there are some tasks I like better than others. I like baking cookies better than scrubbing the showers. What chores do you tend to put off until the twelfth of never? What’s to be done about them? What can motivate us to accomplish in a timely manner what needs to be done? The wise man of scripture said, “If you wait for perfect conditions, you will never get anything done” (Ecclesiastes 11:4). I think that’s what I’ve been doing – waiting for a better time—when I have more energy, more time, more money.

The most helpful suggestions I’ve found is to break tasks into small manageable segments. Then spend 15 minutes (not last minutes) to work heartily on that project. Through seven days of 15 minute segments, bit by bit, stacks of paper dwindle. Unkempt corners are de-cluttered. Those snippets of time spent on put-off projects equals a job well done. When a long delayed chore is finished, give yourself a pat on the back. The completion of one task can energize you to tackle another overdue job.

Laziness underwrites procrastination. “Tomorrow is the only day that appeals to a lazy man,” said Jimmy Lyons. One of the seven deadly sins, slothfulness becomes fatal to spiritual progress too. We become distracted and worn down by so many things in the world that prayer, solitude, and Bible reading get shoved to the end of our lists. When we move them there, then they have become unessential in our minds.

Attentiveness to daily tasks and spiritual feedings acknowledges God, our constant caregiver. Industry honors the Creator and keeps one in tune with the fine ways he provides for us. The God who changes seasons on time, who regulates the tides, who keeps his creation in place through gravity can assist anyone with the problem of procrastination.

“Warning: dates on calendar are closer than you think.” Don’t hesitate. Today ask your timely Father for help.

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