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This week of procrastination has been a blast! In case you missed it, we covered 5 days of procrastination how-to's and how-not-to's. You can catch up here:

Thank you for joining me and offering your own advice and encouragement!

The more I think of it, the more I want to help someone get their hands on the book I mentioned, Organized Simplicity.  I've briefly discussed it within this week's posts, so I won't bore you with a description here. If you would like to enter for chances to win Tsh's book, please click below and follow the steps. I'm new to punchtab and haven't figured out how to configure one more entry option. If you would like another chance to win, just choose to join this blog via google friend select in the sidebar. Leave a comment letting me know that you joined or to let me know that you were already following.

Just Do It

Completely unplanned part of this post, but totally necessary - Reason #5347 not to procrastinate:

My son went to a youth group party at the youth pastor's house while I went to church to teach a class. As we were all getting ready for bed, my son mentioned that they did a scavenger hunt and that he led a group to hunt for items in our house while I was gone. He let them into my bedroom. He let them into my bedroom bathroom.

Aren't they a sweet and innocent looking group? Little did they know that their innocence would be stripped away as they viewed my grimy bathroom and tripped over my skivvies later that night. I really can't describe to you they mess that they encountered, but it's bad enough that I cried when I found out. I sobbed, actually. I felt like throwing up. You see, my room is always the room that gets packed full of whatever oddball mess is sitting around the house. Where does this go? Put it in my bedroom. Pile it on. I'll go through it later. 

I can tell you, it's looking considerably better now. Complete humiliation seems to be a good motivator for me. Which is why I felt the need to share this story, today we're discussing ways to plough through and get things done.

The best way to get something done is to begin. -Author Unknown

Through this five-part series on Procrastination, we've recognized:

  1. what procrastination is
  2. our potential for distraction
  3. temptation for what it is
  4. the opportunities we're missing

And now we're going to do something about it.  Just like with a diet, it helps to "jump start" things to encourage us with immediate results. I recommend inviting someone over for dinner. Tonight. The adrenaline rush is invigorating and it's amazing how many projects you can complete with a deadline like that. Of course, that's a key reason that my bedroom is the disaster that it is. We've had several people over the last few weeks and the fastest way to clean a living room is to shove its contents into my bedroom. This does not explain the condition of my bathroom, but really, there is no explanation for that one.

If your procrastination resides primarily in housekeeping, I strongly recommend the book Organized Simplicity. I have read 500 books about the topic and this is the only one that has worked for me. Yes, my bedroom is still a disaster, but I haven't applied it to my bedroom. With this book, you work through one room of your house at a time. A year ago, I went through my living room and applied this book to it. A year later, it still only takes 5 minutes to clean my living room. A year later, I still haven't applied this book to my bedroom. I'll get to it. #ihaveissues

But if your procrastination is more widespread, let's cover some more techniques. One small, but revolutionary piece of advice that a friend once shared with me is to make yourself finish any job that is going to take two minutes or less. As procrastinators, we are often afraid of finishing (for whatever reason,) and will leave a small task get to later. Before walking away, ask yourself, "Will this take less than two minutes?" If so, DO IT. It's amazing how many of those small things take less than 30 seconds. It's also amazing how much time you would be piling up for yourself if you counted all of the things you put aside until later. 

If you want to make an easy job seem mighty hard, just keep putting off doing it.  - Olin Miller

Another simple piece of advice is to set limits for yourself. If my coffee pot didn't have a shut-off timer, I'd continue reading in the mornings until the entire pot was gone. This way, the pot is getting cold by 8:00 a.m. and not nearly as appealing. I have to start my day. 

  • Set up appointments with friends so that you know you must be finished with projects by a certain time.
  • Shut down your computer between the hours that you need to be most productive so that it doesn't tempt you. 
  • Refuse to leave a certain room until the job is done. Stay and clean the bathroom while your younger children play in the tub.
  • Refuse to go on to a new task on your list until you've completed another item already on the list. 

Start a timer. 
Certainly, this helps limit how much time you spend on a fun project, but for the procrastinator, it's even more inspiring to set a timer for the work itself. If you know the clock is ticking and you have 15 minutes to work on your budget, you know you don't have time to dilly-dally. 

Reward yourself. 
This isn't so you can feel good about yourself, it's so that you can separate your work from your play. Rather than sit down and scroll through your list of preferred distractions before you work, save items on your distraction list as rewards for finishing projects. DrawSomething helped me clean my house a couple weeks ago (minus my bedroom) as a reward I used after every finished task. Load of laundry = DrawSomething. Load of dishes = DrawSomething. Made my bed = DrawSomething. It was fabulous. Those simple jobs seem so much easier when Adam Baldwin's latest tweet is dangling before my nose.  

Be careful how you word things
I read this article, which had some good points and some very bad points. It certainly describes our tendency to jump around on our To-Do lists to choose the most pleasurable or easiest tasks and it offers tips on manipulating our lists to make us more productive. But it also makes it sound like a casual option to blow off our responsibilities. Procrastinators put things off until later, but the later DOES come. People who do who make commitments and blow them off have more to work on that just procrastination. Procrastinators know a week ahead of time that a project is coming up yet wait until the night before d-day to finish it. They are aware that it would probably have been easier to tackle the job Monday afternoon rather than Thursday night at midnight, but it's part of their nature. When you shrug and say, "Well, it looks like I'm going to miss that one," you also have commitment issues and that's another issue that needs dealt with. Let me clear, THINGS HAPPEN and a missed deadline does not make you a loser, it makes you human. Shrugging at a habitual irresponsibility makes you a loser. 

Please care. When you tell someone you are going to be somewhere at a certain time, be there. They have schedules and responsibilities as well and sitting and waiting on you for 20 minutes is not what they were planning for their day. Again, occasionally it happens. It's the not-caring that makes it bad. I think it's a hard thing to understand until you've been let down yourself. You know how it feels to not have enough time in your day to get it all done? Well, the people you make commitments with have lives of their own and they also need every minute they can get. Consider the phrase "Thou shalt not steal" and remember that time is money. If this is something you struggle with, give yourself some grace and then work on it. Procrastination is part of the problem, but there is more to deal with as well. A great place to begin is to stop saying, "Yes, I'll be there." Just say, "I'll try to be there." Practice saying "Maybe." It will be a nice surprise if you're able to show up rather than a disappointment if you don't. 

Consider the Ant
There is so much that we can't change about who we are, but we can work with what we've got. God gives us instructions, so we know it's possible to obey even if it doesn't come easily to us. We also know that we can do all things through Christ Who strengthens us. It hurts to face it, but the title "procrastinator" isn't in the bible. Instead, scripture uses the word "sloth". Blech. Proverbs 12:27 says "The slothful man will not roast his game", meaning the dude had a blast doing the hunting, but finishing the job and cooking it seemed like a job that could wait until later. Raise your hand if you can relate. I see that hand, brother. But there is hope! We know that where we are weak, He is strong. It can be done. And the verse goes on to promise that "the diligent man will get precious wealth." Time with our families is pretty precious. An completely worth it.

Go to the ant, you sluggard;
consider its ways and be wise!
It has no commander,
no overseer or ruler,
yet it stores its provisions in summer
and gathers its food at harvest.

How long will you lie there, you sluggard?
When will you gt up from your sleep?
A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest - 
and poverty will come on you like a thief
and scarcity like an armed man.


Missed Opportunities

You know that moment when someone is knocking on your door, but you are buck naked? You freeze, trying to decide whether to scramble and put some clothing on or convince your children to stay silent until they go away? I generally try to scramble, but I don't always make it. I've opened the door to find "Sorry we missed you" notes, post office notes saying they couldn't deliver my package and would try again tomorrow, and notices that my gas was being turned off because we forgot to pay the bill. Lovely.

"Opportunity knocks at the strangest times; It's not the time that matters but how you answer the door."  -Steve Gray.

I suppose you could answer the door nekkid, but I wouldn't recommend it. No, the idea is to always be prepared....or as prepared as possible. You do have to bathe occasionally and nudity happens. That's not the point of this post, so keep up. If you're just joining me, this post is part 4 of a 5-part series on Procrastination. In Part 1, we explored the definition and delved into it's deep psyche. Part 2 discussed distractions. Part 3 discussed the temptation aspect. Today is all about the missed opportunities.

Quick! Think of 5 things you wish you had time to do! I'll play, too. Here's mine:
1. Finish that book.
2. Exercise. 
2. I totally made that up. Exercise is not on my wish list. Pretend it says knitting project.
3. Meet Jess in Springfield for lunch.
4. Play a board game with my kids.
5. Okay, actually, I can think of about 500 more projects I'd like to work on, but I also wish I had time just to finish my housekeeping chores today. 

Quick! Think of 5 things you'll do today that aren't on your "have to" list and are not on your "wish I had time for" list!  I'll play, too. Mine:
1. Blog about procrastination (can we say i-ron-ic?)
2. Check facebook
3. Check news headlines...again.
4. Play Drawsomething.
5. Read blogs.

Like we discussed yesterday, these distractions are not sin but they really can't compare on the pleasure scale with list #1. So why do we do them?? A big reason is that we are looking for instant gratification. The pleasure of now, though tiny, is easier to recognize than the pleasure of later, though huge in comparison. Another reason, for me, is fear of being one of those people. Of course, we know plenty of people that have their act together and are fun to be around, but we also know people who have their acts together and are boring as all-get-out. Maybe I'm unique in this and just have issues, but lurking in my procrastination is a fear of finding out that my life is pathetic. Does this make sense to anyone else?

Procrastination is opportunity's assassin.  - Victor Kiam

If we could freeze time around us and catch up on our unfinished work, we would have hours of extra time in our days. We could tackle the items on our "wish there was time" list. We wouldn't have to say to our kids, "Sorry, honey, mama has to finish this." We could be finished. We could play. But the truth is, we play in little ways all day long and rob ourselves of true play time later.

My boys do this. They have a set amount of schoolwork to tackle for the day. Sometimes, they will tap out rhythms on the table with their pencils. They stare out the window. They drop an eraser and spend 10 minutes on the floor picking it up. They go to put a paper away and get lost for half an hour looking through old papers. They doodle super heroes in their margins. I don't even want to know what they are doing in the bathroom that takes half an hour. If they had done their work in a leisurely, yet productive manner, they could be finished by 2:00 and have HOURS of playtime. But sometimes, they dawdle so much that they are still doing school at 7:00 at night.

Now, compare this to the days that they know they are going to visit friends. Many times, I've said that as soon as they finish their work, they can go to their friends' house. I kid you not, these dawdlers are finished with an entire school day by 10:00 AM! Look at what is possible! Look at the time that they usually miss!

My mantra with them is "Work first, play second."  I repeat it quite often to them, but I never seem to repeat it to myself.

Procrastination is the thief of time.  - Edward Young

The truth is, there is no need to "freeze time" to catch up on our work. We have hours of time that we wile away in 5 minute snatches all day long, every day. Today, I challenge you to consider what you could be doing. 

Maybe there is good reason for my boys to be in the bathroom so long! From Opportunity Knocks: "Major life decisions aren't made in the boardroom, they're made in the bathroom." 

Be sure to check out the other blogs in the 5-day Carnival:


He knows it's one hour until supper. He knows he'll be offered one for dessert in just a short while. He knows he was told not to touch them. But....they're warm and gooey. They smell soooooooo good. No one is watching. No one will know. They are calling to him. How could a seven year old boy resist?

Let's be real. How could a 27 year old mom resist??

Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing but the body is weak.
Matthew 26:41

When our kids do it, we're pretty quick to recognize sin for what it is. When we do it, we're pretty quick to....nothing. Let me clarify: It is not a sin to have a messy bedroom! It is not a sin to play DrawSomething! But there is a point when compromising your priority list robs you of your best self and robs our families of their best growth.

When you sit down to complete a project and you desire to stay focused but you can't resist checking facebook first, you've given in to temptation. Again, there is no sin in checking facebook. But when we've read a 1000 status updates and failed to give God our own status update, we've compromised somewhere along the way.

"Opportunity may knock only once, but temptation leans on the doorbell."  - Anonymous

The enemy is crafty. He rarely tempts us to do wrong things; he tempts us to shift our point of view. The woman who leaves her family for another man wasn't just tempted to commit adultery. She was tempted to shift her point of view, to relax her commitment, to soften her definition of sin, to turn her focus from loving others to loving self. It starts small. Small compromises. Small questions over whether or not something could even be categorized as "sin".

"And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one."  
- Matthew 6:13

How do we recognize when it's a harmless case of distraction or procrastination...part of our personality, or a slippery slope toward compromise? You already know. You know it when you find yourself getting indignant at the very idea, the insulting idea, that you aren't doing the best you can do. There is no squirming of guilt or a need to defend when it's a harmless case. When in doubt, back away from the questionable activity. Replace it with more time with God. Spend time reading scripture, wearing the breastplate of righteousness.

Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life. 
- Proverbs 4:23

Guard your heart. To those of you who are well-balanced and never struggled with setting priorities, this probably sounds pretty silly. Guard your heart against....facebook? No, not facebook, against losing perspective. It becomes a sin when it means stealing time that belongs to our families. And trust me, some of us struggle with vigilance in this area. And if you struggle with this, you already know that beating yourself up really doesn't help much. Recognize the temptation to be distracted. Recognize when it crosses over to the point of sin. Recognize that it is an area in which you are weak. You need to take it to God and let Him be strong where you are weak. Let Him fight your battle.

And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. 
 - Philippians 4:7

And for goodness sake, stop beating yourself up! We serve a gracious God who knows our struggles and desires to rescue us!

"...bad people, in one sense, know very little about badness. They have lived a sheltered life by always giving in. We never find out the strength of the evil impulse inside us until we try to fight it: and Christ, because he was the only man who never yielded to temptation, is also the only man who knows to the full what temptation means--the only complete realist." -C.S. Lewis

Rather than struggle against our nature, 

#1 Take it to God

#2 Remember the beauty of your calling. What has God called you to? What  is the ideal picture of your day for you? What memories of you do you want your loved ones to look back on? Keep in mind the beautiful picture God has created just for your life and strive towards it.

Time with God is really the only thing that can change your habits. Galatians 5:16-17 tells us that if you are guided by the Spirit, He's not going to lead you to self-indulgence, since self-indulgence is the opposite of the Spirit.

1 Cor 10:13 No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.

Luke 9:23 (NIV) Then he said to them all: "If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me."

Here is a quick read of a sermon on this topic if you'd like to study more deeply.

Here is another distraction for you:

And here are some great topics to explore with a whole lot of talented bloggers:

Secret Garden

Easy Fun School

Lesson Pathways

1949 movie version


My favorite, Hallmark Version, The Secret Garden, from 2002 

Tomorrow! Tomorrow! I'll love ya tomorrow!

 Want a real procrastination distraction? Google the word "Annie". I did a quick search for an image to match the song stuck in my head. This started with a search for Annie the Musical and led to Annie Oakley, Annie Hall, and Annie the Movie. This led to IMDB to find out who that adorable actress was in the movie and what ever happened to her?!? Her name is Aileen Quinn and she really hasn't been in much else, movie wise, though she has been in several Broadway shows. She is in the #1 spot on People With Money's list for highest paid actors, with a net worth of $245 million! She's also the lead singer of an L.A. based Rockabilly band called....wait for it....."The Leapin' Lizards."  If you didn't spend your childhood watching Annie, that might not mean much to you, but trust me, it's awesome. 

But that has nothing to do with the topic at hand. However, the concept of distraction has quite a bit to do with it. Often, we don't intend to get side-tracked, but our attention is grabbed. That article, game, song, etc. is small and inconsequential. It won't take very long. I'll get right back to my task as soon as I finish this. Of course, one distraction can easily lead to another. Even if it does not, we could be just 5 minutes away from a brand new distraction. Before we know what's happened, the one hour project has grown into a four hour project and we have to scurry for the last half hour to finish it.

One definition listed under the word distraction is "that which distracts, divides the attention, or prevents concentration."

Now, that just hurts for me to read. It immediately calls to mind Jesus' reminders that a house divided against itself cannot stand. When my attention is divided, I cannot give the focus needed to truly do my best.  But we live in an age of distraction; It is impossible to not notice them. What can you do? 

Lists are a helpful tool to keep me on target. I stock up on index cards and post-its when back to school sales start. Now, I have to be careful not to spend an hour making elaborate lists with pretty fonts and different color coding, stickers in the corners or charts on the computer. Yes, lists can be distractions in themselves. You're talking to a professional, remember? Keep the lists reasonable and brief. List only the imperatives. These help because you can glance and see a limited number of items that must be finished today. There is also an extreme satisfaction in drawing that line through each item you've finished. I'm one of those gals who will add a finished item to my list so that I can strike it out. You are too, right?

"...anyone can do any amount of work, provided it isn't the work he is supposed to be doing at that moment." - Robert Benchley, Chips Off the Old Benchley, 1949 

 Lists don't work for everyone, of course. Sometimes you have to eliminate the distraction. If you have a list of things that don't leave any time for internet activity but you can't resist the temptation, send your power cord to work with your husband. Make an announcement that you will be off of facebook between the hours of such-and-such. Sure, you are still able to hop on there, but it's kind of embarrassing to go against your own word in front of witnesses. Humility is a great motivator. Also, keep in mind the other witnesses you have around your house. Your children see you work and they see you not work. Being raised with your habits, they may learn to justify behaviours if you are justifying your own in front of them. Do you want them to emulate your habits? I haven't had to resort to giving up my power cord....yet. Lists and reminders really do help me.  I keep them with me and tacked up beside my bathroom mirror, computer monitor, inside my coffee cabinet. I make lists of what  needs done. I make reminders. One of those reminders is a bible verse that I keep tacked up next to my mirror:

Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. - 1 Peter 5:8

I need reminded to stay alert. The enemy would love to see me fall into apathy, enjoying my comforts and distractions and never fulfilling God's call on my life. And, as you know, it's a hard-knock life.


Tools that help me:
1. Index Cards and Post-Its

2. Motivated Moms.  I'm a true rebel at heart and I'm amazed that I was able to accept someone else's housekeeping list since I tend to try rewriting everything I find, but I haven't changed a thing with this list. It's one that my kids can look at and mark off with me. It breaks everything down nice and easy. It's cheap at $8 and I've been using them for several years now. I do receive a 12% commission on purchases. 

3.Google Calendar. I have several different email addresses for different things. I have all of them imported into one gmail account (very easy to set up.) This gives me access to Google Calendar, which lets me instantly add events and reminders and alarms (I often set up as many as 6 different reminders for each event) every time I read an email giving me a deadline. It also allows me to import calendars from other people. I can add my husband's, my church's, and that of any one else who makes theirs public (not that I necessarily want to.) 

And, completely off topic, Carol Burnett is brilliant. It would be wrong of me to offer you a distraction now, wouldn't it? 

Be sure to check out more amazing topics being discussed by members of the 5 day blog hop!

Record Keeping

check state requirements

link up the options

After all, tomorrow is another day!

Procrastinate: To defer until a later time. From Latin, pro - "forward" and crastinus - "belonging to tomorrow"

Procrastinators put things off until tomorrow. Today has something else to occupy our time. Tomorrow, we'll be able to better tackle that project. The problem is, tomorrow becomes today and we eventually run out of tomorrows before a deadline arrives. A procrastinator still gets things done, but they don't generally get things done early.

  “The future is always ideal: The fridge is stocked, the weather clear, the train runs on schedule and meetings end on time. Today, well, stuff happens.”
- Hara Estroff Marano in Psychology Today 

As I explained in my housekeeping philosophy, procrastination brings with it an energy, an adventure, and a deep satisfaction with a finished project. Some might posit that balanced approaches to living require less energy for basic tasks and yield more energy that can be applied to passions and pleasures and the adventure called life. They might be right, but I haven't investigated that angle much yet. I'll do it later.

In the mean time, I read an article recently with much to say about self-control, which is really the heart of the problem, isn't it? "I know I should write this report now, but I'd like to check facebook, my email, news headlines, and my latest game apps first." We're choosing between responsible behaviour and pleasurable behaviour.  Salad or cheesecake. Of course we want the cheesecake now. It tastes amazing! What we forget is that, when done right, salads are actually quite nice. And we forget that, when eaten at the exclusion of healthy foods, cheesecake actually leaves us feeling quite miserable. We see the now and forget the future. Or we see the future, but imagine it better than reality allows. 

One interesting point in the article is that feelings of social exclusion impair self-regulation. In other words, when we feel lonely or unwanted, we don't use self-control nearly so well. On an unexplored level, we're saying to ourselves, "If no one really cares about me, what difference does it make if I make healthy decisions?" So, if self-control is a problem for you, it is probably a good idea to make yourself spend some time with other people. Get out of your house. Go talk out loud to real people. 

If you like that sort of thing. 

And if you don't (I sometimes don't), it's still best to force yourself to get out there anyway. It's not healthy to hole up, comfortable though it may be.  

Another interesting point the article makes is that too many decisions or exercises in self-control can exhaust us and make it harder for us to perform well. So, when I have a review to write, the more I try not to focus on the entertaining things around me, the less focused I am able to be on the task at hand. I have learned this about myself already. First, I know that there are some nights when my brain just will not gather my thoughts up properly and I'm actually better off to delay it a bit longer, so that I can produce a better quality review. Adrenaline certainly increases as my deadlines loom and I am able to focus better. 

That sounds terrible, I know, but there is a beautiful point in there. The article says that we run into trouble when we are struggling to control ourselves and our decisions and that we'd be much better off if we could switch ourselves to auto-pilot. Obviously, exhausting or not, it is necessary to control ourselves. While I certainly believe that God expects us to use some sense and exercise self-control, I really believe that "auto-pilot" is a state of dependence on Him. Decisions aren't so very hard when we are seeking answers in prayer rather than our own power. The article I've linked does NOT bring God into the picture. In fact, quite the opposite and, on second thought, you probably don't want to read it.

Second, because there is always the possibility that my less-focused night will fall on the night before a review is due, I set false deadlines for myself. If you know you're prone to procrastination, I'm fairly certain you're not actually going to be able to change those habits any time soon, so the best thing you can do is to learn how to regulate it. I have a deadline of May 14th, so I put a deadline on the calendar of May 10th. Sure, I know that it's not really due May 10th, but I know it's coming up and I work on it. I generally will finish the project on May 11th or 12th and I have at least a day to spare! 

 ...although almost everyone has problems with procrastination, those who recognize and admit their weakness are in a better position to utilize available tools for precommitment and by doing so, help themselves overcome it.  -Dan Ariely "Predictably Irrational"

Overcome it? I doubt it's possible, though there are hundreds of books on the market that say otherwise. How many of those books would you bet have been purchased and then shelved, their owners intending to read them very soon. 

One last point in the article: blood sugar affects performance, ability to focus, and self-control. As long as you're not trying to control your food consumption, this is handy advice. Go eat a banana. But I think I recognized this already. I have a tradition for my work time: After the kids go to bed, I set a treat and a beverage in front of the keyboard, to enjoy as I work on bills, lesson plans, blogging, etc.  However, this tradition can create some late nights and sometimes my beverage of choice is a glass of wine, so this is probably not the best routine. The article stresses that lack of sleep and alcohol can decrease focus and self-control, making me more likely to stray towards facebook when I'm supposed to be researching history lessons. 

So, to sum up:
1. Some of it is personality and no self-help book will "cure" you.
2. Some of it is a self-control issue and could probably use some prayer
3. Some of it is stress/mind-clutter induced and could probably use some prayer
4. If you know you procrastinate, find a way to deal with your tendencies. Sure, keep trying to improve and change bad habits, but in the meantime, be practical and set up some safety deadlines.
5. Eat a banana. Or better yet, a handful of walnuts and a glass of water.
6. And don't forget that salads are quite nice.

How's that for a ridiculously long introduction? The rest of the week will be much more simple.

Now, if by some chance you are reading this in hopes of adding more procrastination pleasures to your life, here is a small sampling of my list of current favorites:

This post is part of a week-long blog carnival featuring much more helpful and thought-provoking posts than mine. To read the others, be sure to check out the TOS Blog Hop: