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The Procrastination Diaries: Finish what you start!


“Only put off until tomorrow what you are willing to die having left undone”  ~ Pablo Picasso

Too many of us start things we don’t finish. Sometimes ever! It’s the dirty game of procrastination, and some of us are better at the game than others.

Napoleon Hill describes procrastination as “…the bad habit of putting off until the day after tomorrow what should have been done the day before yesterday.”

Yes, life gets in the way. Yes, things get put on the back burner because of money or time. Yes, there is that forgetfulness thing. Yes, other things pop up that jump in front of other things.

All good excuses. All reasonable justification. Right? Actually, well, no.

In our home, we have a procrastination list. My wife is responsible for that and it’s a good thing! Unfortunately, it’s a long list of things we’ve talked about doing, things we need to get done, things we should be doing, even things we want to do. Some things have been around since we moved in (a year and a half ago), others have joined the list only recently. Either way, there is a list, and we seem to be able to add to it regularly.

Now to the tough part. Start pecking away at the list.

Here’s a novel idea. Finish what you’ve already started. Anything that’s already been started, move to the top of the list. Don’t start other things until those things are finished.

I did that last year when I finished a 40-year journey and completed my college degree. It was a journey to be sure, one that could have ended much sooner, but “life” got in the way. Still, the journey is now complete, with a long layover in between.

Sometimes, you just need to give yourself a deadline. One sales trainer told me years ago: “If there is no deadline, it’s not real.” Once you start something, you need to establish a deadline, then lay out mile markers along the way to track your progress.

Eliminating procrastination disposes of stress, lightens the load and can actually have a positive impact on your life emotionally and physically.

“The really happy people are those who have broken the chains of procrastination, those who find satisfaction in doing the job at hand. They’re full of eagerness, zest, productivity. You can be, too.”

There are many areas of procrastination. After you make your list, prioritize it. Often times, we put off decisions that impact our health. Don’t. A friend of mine recently fell into some serious health issues because of a “mismanagement of my priorities”.

Make that appointment. Take those tests. Follow those instructions.

You can prioritize other matters too. Our list includes updates to our home, travel plans, health, refinishing furniture and even personal entertainment.

Here are some tips to end your procrastination.

  1. Make your list. Include everything from making that dentist appointment to refinishing your furniture to scheduling dance lessons to finishing the setup of your desk or office.
  2. Prioritize your list. Some things are more important than others. Some things can be done in minutes, others will take a while. Move health items to the top of the list, especially those impacting significant issues. Move relationships to the top of the list. Move long-term projects lower. Schedule seasonal projects accordingly.
  3. Pick ONE THING. Don’t try to finish too many things at once. Start with one thing, finish it, then move on to the next thing.
  4. Create deadlines. Deadlines give you a timeline. If necessary, break down the time you’ve allowed into mini projects and watch your progress. Remember, if there’s no deadline, it’s not real.
  5. Adapt as you go. It’s okay to juggle as you go. For example, if you find that one thing on your list needs an expert, further planning or requires a longer timeline, move it down. Just don’t use it as an excuse to stop altogether.

Remember, you’re mirroring your life after God for it was He who said: “He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion.”

In fact, John Mason encourages us to “adopt the pace of God”. In his book You’re Born an Original, Don’t Die a Copy, he goes on to say: “God is a planner, a strategist. He is perfectly organized, has a definite flow and pace. God is more like a marathon runner than a sprinter. Pressure usually accompanies us when we are out of God’s pace.”

The procrastination project is like any other. Hard to start, harder to complete. Stop kicking the can down the road. Eventually, you’ll run into a pile of cans that keep you from happiness, fulfillment and peace of mind.

“Procrastination may relieve short-term pressure. But it often impedes long-term progress.” ~John Maxwell.

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