In a recent Bible study lesson, my kids and I discussed the story of Nehemiah and the rebuilding of the wall of Jerusalem. Just as Nehemiah placed warriors to protect the “weak areas” of the wall, the lesson read, so we must stand guard over the areas in which we are prone to weakness. As I read this, I immediately knew what one of my chief areas of weakness is: procrastination.
Oh, you thought this post was about a child’s procrastination? Nope! That would be me. I’ve heard it said that procrastination is just another word for laziness, but I have to disagree. It is possible to be quite industrious while one is trying to avoid some other task—for instance, diligently organizing one’s desk when one ought to be working on lesson plans. I would instead describe procrastination as an unwillingness to acknowledge the importance of a task one finds undesirable, and therefore a reluctance to do it.
While I struggle with procrastination in many areas, a couple of the ones that have tended to have a negative impact in our household are starting school for the day and making meals on time. Each year, I have come up with a new daily schedule to set the day in a better order. And every year, it lasts all of about 3 days before falling apart, largely due to these two factors.
I have begun to notice the far-reaching effects of my delays, however, so this year, I am making it a priority to do better. While it hasn’t been perfect, I’ve seen improvement . . . we are a few weeks in and haven’t thrown the schedule out the window yet!
Here are some of the specific ways I’m trying to protect against procrastination:
1. Thinking through my day the night before (or first thing in the morning). I have a tendency only to remember certain tasks around the time I need to do them. If I can take a quick few minutes to outline my day, I can organize things by order of importance, decreasing the temptation to put something of lesser importance first.
2. Bible reading in the mornings. One of my New Year’s resolutions was to try to read through the whole Bible before the end of the year. I’m not sure I’ve ever read through the entire Bible, much less in one year. Full disclosure: I am currently a bit behind, but at least I haven’t lost any ground since school began.
How does this help me with procrastination? For one, the wisdom of God’s Word helps me to start the day with my priorities better in line. But I think the thing that primarily pushes me is the realization that I will never reach my goal if I don’t keep chipping away at it every day. If I procrastinate on that, I will never catch up. The simple discipline of doing the same thing every day is good practice for me.
3. Making my schedule more workable. I’m great at making schedules . . . but terrible at making them realistic. After 7 years of homeschooling trial and error, I think I may have found a schedule that I can realistically manage. Of course, doing better with my focus and discipline helps a lot, too. We’ll see how it continues to go!
4. Remembering my goals for the day. My main goals are to keep meals at good times, and to be done with school by early afternoon. I’ve realized that properly scheduling meals (especially dinner) is one of the keys to keeping our whole schedule on track. When lunch is late, dinner is usually late. When dinner is late, bedtime is late. And when bedtime is late, the next day gets off to a late start, and the cycle starts over.
As for being done with school by early afternoon, this is first of all just helpful for all-around morale. But it also leaves time for all those things that have often seemed more important to me in the mornings. Answering emails? Making a grocery list? Checking out a great sale online? All of these can sound so important when I’m procrastinating, but in reality, getting school done and keeping our day moving is usually the best course. Other things can wait till the afternoon.
5. Reminding myself that it needs to be done sometime. The habit of procrastination is a habit of persuading oneself to temporarily forget one’s responsibilities. Certain things are just not my favorite, and if I can busy myself with something else, I can ignore the thing I dislike. The problem is, ignoring a responsibility doesn’t make it go away. It usually just makes it more urgent and stressful. So although it sounds silly, I often have to remind myself that the thing I don’t want to do still needs to get done sometime, and thus I might as well do it now and get it over with.
Again, I’m working on these. My execution has been far from perfect. But I think I’ve improved enough to begin to see the benefits of these disciplines.
First, on the days I don’t procrastinate in the mornings or around meal times, I tend to use my time more productively. Getting off to a good start in the morning usually sets the tone for the rest of my day.
Second, it is so freeing to get through school earlier in the day, vs. working on other tasks in the morning and causing school to run into the late afternoon or evening. Looking forward to the more flexible time rather than looking backward at it improves my whole day.
And finally (perhaps most importantly), it gets me more in tune with my husband’s preferences. I have always been more of a night owl, and he is more of a morning person. He would prefer to do just about everything earlier in the day than I do. It has NOT been easy, but I know for us, it is important that I adjust to his schedule—for his physical health (which has been a struggle in recent years), for our family’s peace, and for the health of our marriage.
Maybe you don’t struggle with procrastination in the areas I’ve described, but you avoid important tasks in some other way. I know it’s hard. I have plenty more areas I still need to tackle! But I hope my story can be an encouragement toward making those changes that will benefit your life.
Photo Credit: iStock.