The book of Exodus records the intriguing encounter of Moses with Pharaoh, the king of Egypt. The entire land was filled with frogs and Pharaoh had had enough. He asked Moses to get rid of the frogs. Moses gave Pharaoh the option for determining the time for the frogs to be gone. Pharaoh replied, “Tomorrow." He was willing to spend one more night with those frogs!
Ex.8:8-10. Pharaoh summoned Moses and Aaron and said, “Pray to the LORD to take the frogs away from me and my people, and I will let your people go to offer sacrifices to the LORD.” Moses said to Pharaoh, “I leave to you the honor of setting the time for me to pray for you and your officials and your people that you and your houses may be rid of the frogs, except for those that remain in the Nile.” “Tomorrow,” Pharaoh said. Moses replied, “It will be as you say, so that you may know there is no one like the LORD our God. The frogs will leave you and your houses, your officials and your people; they will remain only in the Nile.”
One of our greatest enemies and biggest time wasters is the habit of procrastination. We tend to put off until “tomorrow” those difficult tasks or problems we may be facing. By conquering the procrastination habit, we can use our time more effectively. In fact you might even “Steal One Hour a Day”. This idea comes from Chuck Swindoll, an incredibly busy seminary president and popular speaker. He states that no matter how busy we are, all of us are capable of "stealing" one hour each day. You can do it by getting up a little earlier, taking a shorter lunch, working an extra hour at home after the kids are in bed, etc. This habit will give you 260 extra work hours a year -- in other words, six weeks!
What kind of things do you tend to procrastinate? Why? What will you do about it TODAY? Don’t Delay – Do it TODAY! Some people are convinced that procrastination is just part of their personality. But Dr. Don Carruth, a management professor at East Texas State University, disagrees. "Procrastination is simply a bad habit," he says. "It can be corrected by substituting a good habit -- the habit of action." To replace your current work method with one that is more effective -- and much less stressful – take the following steps:
1. Identify Procrastination. While some people tend to procrastinate more than others, most people suffer from this problem in some form or another. However, we are not always aware of the subtle way this bad habit gets into our lives. Take a look at yourself by asking these questions:
- When faced with a problem, do I take a long time analysing before I act?
- Do I spend more time thinking than doing?
- When given a new assignment, do I automatically place it in the “To-do-later” pile?
- Do I keep handling the same things over and over?
- Do I tend to put off tasks or projects until the last minute?
- Do I think that I “work well under pressure”?
- Is my desk always untidy?
- Are people always chasing me up for things I’ve been asked to do?
- Am I regularly late with projects or assignments?
- What am I putting off?
2. Understand Why. What makes one person a procrastinator and another a "go-getter"? It usually boils down to perception and attitude. On the task that you enjoy, you don’t procrastinate because you anticipate the sense of achievement you’ll feel when the work is completed. Most of us tend to make decisions based on whether we believe the results will bring us pain or pleasure. So people procrastinate when they believe that doing a certain task will give more discomfort than happiness. We tend to avoid events which are unpleasant, complex, lengthy, or uninteresting, regardless of their priority. As long as the "negative" (boredom, risk of failure, challenge, etc.) outweighs the "positive" in their minds, they feel justified in avoiding the task.
3. Simplify Each Task. Taken as a whole, many jobs can look too big or difficult, and this perception can tempt you to put them off. But remember what Calvin Coolidge said: "We cannot do everything at once, but we can do something at once." The key is to break the task down into manageable parts.
To do that, first look at the entire project and everything it involves to get a global perspective. Then make a list of all the components, creating a separate folder for each. This way it's easy to group the various folders based on similarity. Now ask yourself which part needs your attention first, second, etc, and stack them in order of priority. The best part of this system is that you can now file all of those folders in order in a project box or drawer and pull out only the one you're currently working on. You know you've got a handle on the entire job, but you're able to focus on it one piece at a time. Break large tasks into small ones. Use the accomplishment of the small steps as a motivator to push you on to complete the project. “How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.”
4. Value Progress over Perfection. One of the biggest reasons for postponing tasks is fear of failure. Many procrastinators are so intent on doing a job perfectly -- which they know deep down is impossible -- that they can't bring themselves to start it. But I like the motto I heard from business expert Tom Peters: "Anything worth doing is worth doing poorly." The point is that if you wait until you're 100% ready before you begin a project, you'll be waiting for a long, long time.
Besides keeping us from beginning a project, perfectionism can keep us from experiencing any success DURING the task. If perfection is your only definition of success, you'll rarely (if ever) be successful. But by valuing progress, you receive encouragement throughout the project, and are motivated to take it to completion.
Value progress more than perfection - very little will be accomplished unless you go ahead and do it before you’re ready. There are two kinds of people - “I won’t do it until it’s right” and “I’ll do it until it’s right”. Start that project now. Many people never start a project because they don’t have time to finish it. Don’t worry about finishing. Just get started. Work on projects ahead of time.
Quotes on Procrastination
"Some people wait so long for their ship to come in, their pier collapses." -- John Goddard
"If you wait until the wind and the weather are just right, you will never plant anything and never harvest anything." -- Ecclesiastes 11:4
“The day before a long holiday, everyone gets twice as much done. We stop stewing and start doing.”
“If it were not for the last minute, a lot of things would never get done. Deadlines make us work harder!”
“God put me on earth to accomplish a certain number of things ... Right now I’m so behind that I will never die!”
Focus on the first step in your plan to reach your goal and your dream. Just do it. Focus on the part of the field in front of you right now. Focus on today, now and the immediate. Stay concentrated, directed and on track.
Spring is a time for planting seeds
Sow what you intend to reap. That way you will always enjoy a good harvest, regardless of the quantity your field yields. Invest in the future today. Plant seeds in your own life – personal growth. What goes in becomes what you think and what you think determines to a great extent who you are and who you will become. Add value to your life. The Christian life is a life of continual growth and change. Jesus has saved us and called us with a holy calling. He has placed his Spirit within us and all the resources we need to accomplish his will. He now wants us to grow, change and develop so that we reach our full potential in Christ.
Paul challenged Timothy to a life of progress (1 Tim.4:12-16). He told him to be a model of what a true believer is. Then he told him to devote himself to personal growth and the development of his God-given gifts and abilities. The result would be that his progress would be seen by all and his ministry would be more effective.
Spring is a time for looking for opportunities
Look around, pay attention, listen. Opportunity is everywhere. When you look for them, you’ll see more of them. In every situation, you can see an opportunity or a problem. Pessimists see a problem behind every opportunity. Optimists see an opportunity behind every problem.
- Each encounter you have every day of your life is an opportunity.
- Each person you meet is an opportunity for you.
- Each experience you have is rooted in opportunity.
- You have the opportunity to grow, to learn, to change, to add to your level of awareness, to become more than you presently are.
Each day is a gift – and an opportunity to step closer to God and to His dream for your life. Be prepared and sensitive to what the Spirit wants to do in and through you today.
Next up ... Summer.