Excerpt from Taming the To-Do List by Glynnis Whitwer. courtesy of Baker Publishing Group.
Everybody delays doing something, but not every delay is procrastination. There are good reasons why we put off certain tasks. Sometimes we don’t have the supplies or the information we need. Other times we don’t have the money. Most of the time, the honest reasons for delay are due to a shifting of priorities.
With small priorities, this is an ongoing process. A friend has a flat tire and is stranded at the mall, so you put down your project and head to her rescue. Or changes in priority can be big, like when our family adopted two girls from Africa and discovered their needs went beyond what we had anticipated. That act of obedience caused me to stop pursuing dreams I’d had for years as I set aside one set of goals and replaced them with another.
Life is full of surprises. Those that make us smile with delight, the everyday variety that feel mundane, and those that bring us to our knees.
A wise woman knows when it’s time to put the brakes on a project and turn to the needs God has placed in front of her. The Bible tells many stories of people whose lives were redirected. One
example in the New Testament is the story Jesus told about the Good Samaritan who took a detour to tend to a wounded man. Caring for a beaten and bruised stranger was certainly not on the Samaritan’s agenda. Jesus used this story to show us the importance of putting the needs of our neighbors above our own at times.
Blessed are those who listen and watch for what new thing God is about.
Procrastination, however, is a completely different issue.
We might blame the surprise need as the cause of our delay, but true procrastination involves a voluntary delay of something we could do but choose not to. Although it might include a shifting of priorities, its root cause is our resistance toward the task.
In other words, procrastination is an intentional delay of something that is in our best interest to do. For instance, it is in my best interest to exercise. And I could do it. I have an affordable gym membership. I can make time in my day. But the truth is, I don’t like exercise. There’s not even a sport I like to play.
Some people talk about feeling great once they start working out. In fact, studies show exercise releases feel-good endorphin in a person’s brain and should provide that so-called runner’s high. I think my endorphins run and hide when I start to work out, because all I feel is sweaty. And like I need a Diet Coke. But it would raise some eyebrows if I brought in my bottle of soda to the gym. So, given the slightest reason to change my plans, I do. Tomorrow I will feel more like exercising. Right?
If a friend calls with a flat tire as I am about to go to the gym, I secretly celebrate a reason to put off going to the gym. Of course, once I’m done helping, I rationalize that it’s too late to fit a workout in and cancel my plans, certain I’ll go the next day. But on most days it probably is still possible for me to go to the gym.
I’ve also been going to lose my “baby weight” . . . for about nineteen years. Which just so happens to be the age of my youngest son. Every day I wake up with the best intentions to start my new healthy eating plan, and that lasts until I actually have to deny myself something I enjoy.
A common excuse for me is when one of my college-age children calls and asks if I’m free for lunch. Of course I am! But rather than choose a salad, I celebrate our glorious time together and pick pizza. I could make a healthier choice but I don’t.
Maybe you’ve got similar frustrations. Are there things you know you should do . . . you have the ability to do . . . truth be told, you have the time and resources to do . . . but you simply don’t do?
We all procrastinate to some extent. We all make choices to delay doing the things that would make a positive impact on our lives. And there’s not much we won’t delay. We put off everyday tasks like cleaning, filing papers, ironing, and home maintenance. We put off important things like doctor’s appointments, paying bills, and making meal plans.