Procrastinator's dilemma


By Bill Pyatt
Bill PyattYikes! It has happened again. I’m up against a deadline. I kept on putting the task off, hoping for some new inspiration. Goodness, you would think that after 38 years in the ministry I would have learned my lesson! While the “last minute” does provide an adrenaline rush, it also means that I lose the opportunity to submit my best effort. I will have to settle for a rushed effort.
It certainly isn’t the first time that I have allowed my calendar and the clock to sneak up on me. I have frustrated local church secretaries, district administrative assistants and our conference office staff, asking for a few more days to submit articles, reports and registrations. You would think by now I would have learned my lesson.
I have learned a few things. When given a task that is unfamiliar, seems daunting, or does not offer much appeal, I often set it aside. I make the same old excuses: “I need to sleep on this until I can get a fresh look,” or “perhaps tomorrow I will find the time in my schedule to go from start to finish.” But most often, it just drops off my radar. The tyranny of the urgent clouds my vision and soaks up my energy.  Once again, the necessary and the promised tasks often get buried on the bottom of my stack. This is what I have learned over the years.

First, when I tell others about the deadline that I have agreed to, I get gentle reminders from them, which helps me take some time today to make an outline of the steps I need to take or make a first draft.  The church secretaries I have worked with have learned to set an early deadline for items I provide for the bulletin and remind me a couple of different times that the monthly newsletter article is coming up. While I sometimes sigh when I hear about deadlines, the reminders often help me gain some momentum.

Second, I keep a notebook on my desk where I list the tasks that I need to tend to for the day, the week and the month. I list some of the easy steps that need early attention for the tasks I dread the most. At the least, I create a file where I can put the records I need to review to complete the task.

Third, I allow the task to be part of my prayer calendar. I no longer appeal to God to deliver me from the responsibility of submitting Charge Conference reports, Year End reports and newsletter articles, but I do seek God’s guidance and help.

Fourth, I claw some time out of my schedule to get at the task. I’m up early this morning to write. I plan to slip away over the lunch hour to read it over. In addition, I pledge to do better next time. (Well, my pledge is not much good, but I do feel better when I promise to improve.)

So, what is the takeaway from this for you? Procrastinators are not alone. We are not helpless. We can benefit from caring support and encouragement (different from nagging). It is possible to learn and follow a new pattern for meeting deadlines.

Blessings and best wishes as you deal with your own habits and patterns of dealing with deadlines and tasks.

Call me sometime, and we can talk about it, or at least commiserate.