May I share one of my lesser-known character flaws with you? (If you’d prefer not to know, I understand. Just click out quickly because I’m getting ready to reveal it now.)
When life gets overwhelming for me, I can easily slip on the banana peel of procrastination. And suddenly I feel like the worst procrastinator in the world. The WORST, I tell you!
Many who know me may be thinking, “I find that hard to believe, Sheri. You have something going almost every minute of the day.” But I promise it’s true, dear friend; totally true.
As a younger woman, I tried diligently to hide my tendency toward procrastination.
I had all sorts of responses ready when Frank would come home and find the mountain of laundry still not put away. (Some days it wasn’t even folded; much less put away!)
When the choir I directed would question why the new music hadn’t yet come in, I dodged their puzzled expressions. And said, “Let’s revise this wonderful old song we all know and love so well!” I didn’t want them to know the new music hadn’t even been ordered yet.
My girls looked to me to have home school essentials organized and ready to start the end of August. But many times, I was still scrambling to find the math curriculum I KNEW we had…….somewhere!
It was easier to respond, “I am waiting for you to get your rooms organized. THEN we can start. Now, get to it!”
Even in high school and college, when term papers were due I would make a mad dash to the library just as time was nearly expired. “I do better work when I’m under pressure to finish!” It sounded plausible to my roommate but in my heart, I knew it wasn’t true.
Yep! Classic expressions of the practiced procrastinator.
It was a huge, ugly monster that lurked under my bed at night taunting me with reminders of:
· work I could have done!
· work to be done!
· work I should have done!
Pat, the Procrastination Monster, made sleep difficult and sometimes impossible. The resulting exhaustion would give me one more excuse for not beginning whatever task awaited me. “I’m just too tired!”
Pat was also cunning with his accusations, “I bet Cindy has her laundry done; her lesson plans complete; her choir music in; her house organized; her…….” You fill it in.
So I would find myself sitting. Frozen. Staring. Feeling massive amounts of guilt. Incapable of moving forward because the mountain of what had to be done was Just.....Too......DAUNTING!
Freedom came for me when I talked with a friend I greatly admired. “I’m such a terrible procrastinator,” I confessed. "You wouldn’t believe how things overwhelm me to the point that I can’t do ANYTHING!"
“Oh, Sheri.” My friend slipped an arm around my shoulder for comfort. “I struggle with procrastination, too.”
My head snapped up and I stared at her in total shock. This gal was the organization queen of my universe. How could it be that Pat the Monster was sleeping under her bed, too?
“Yes,” she assured me. “Getting overwhelmed happens more than anyone likes to admit. I had a meltdown just last week about work I couldn’t seem to manage.”
“Well, when you feel like that, what do you do?” I still wasn’t convinced she wrestled with the same size monster as mine.
“I stop blaming everyone and everything else around me. I ask the Lord for help. I pull one tiny thread on the mountain of tangled issues and then I just Get Started.” She paused to let the ‘get started’ part sink in. “Seems like once I take even the smallest step toward action, things begin falling into place.”
It was about that same time I discovered my Tennis Shoe Technique.
As a mom working from home, I needed something to signal the start and ending of my work days. The solution was in my tennis shoes.
When I took off my bedroom slippers and laced up my sneakers each morning it meant, “Game On!” The starting gun had sounded (in my mind) and we were off like a shot.
As soon as the last little one was tucked into bed each night, my sneakers came off and I exchanged them for tattered bedroom slippers that cradled my feet. “Day is done,” they whispered. “You’ve run your leg of the marathon well. Now sit down and rest a while.”
Through practicing those two simple techniques on a daily basis, I began to battle procrastination more successfully. After some time, I was finally able to reduce Pat the Monster down to Pat the Dust Bunny.
His voice had once been the terrifying boom of a thunder clap warning of impending disaster. It slowly morphed into a squeaky mouse-like sound that I could more easily silence.
(Frank recently started using a third technique to produce movement on dreaded tasks. He envisions a rocket being launched and reproduces the countdown to greatness, “Five, four, three, two, one……..MOVE!” Feel free to adopt it as your own.)
I still struggle from time to time with feeling overwhelmed and under prepared. But I’ve learned the value of starting. And forward movement can soon become the freight train of accomplishment once again.
Remember friend, the dreading is almost always worse than the doing. And you aren't the only Procrastinator out there!
I’d love to hear about techniques you’ve used to battle procrastination. Tell us about it in the comment section, won’t you?