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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.

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"Man lives by affirmation even more than by bread." - Victor Hugo