Structured Procrastination

Thanks to a fellow Toastmaster, this week I was introduced to something I had never heard of before – structured procrastination. After my friend finished speaking on the subject, I realized I am majorly afflicted with this malady! Hearing his speech was like finally getting a correct diagnosis for symptoms that here-to-fore were vague and nebulous. It was a good news/bad news scenario to be sure!

Quoting Robert Benchley who wrote in “Chips off the Old Benchley, 1949,” “. . . anyone can do any amount of work, provided it isn’t the work he is supposed to be doing at that moment.” This blog post is the perfect example of what Benchley is talking about. I have been wanting to write another post ever since the last post several weeks ago. But if you looked back over my calendar of activities since that last post, you would certainly understand why it has been difficult to commit to this writing. There were dozens of meetings – each with varying degrees of importance – lunches for both ministry and business purposes – speaking engagements – grandchildren to pick up from school – a friend’s birthday to be celebrated – evening programs to attend, surely you get the picture. At some point you have to do laundry, wash the dishes and vacuum a seldom-lived-in apartment! It seems that for any given space of time there are several choices of how to spend it. Help me out here. Do any of my readers identify with this struggle?

Benchley says, “Structured procrastination means . . . the list of tasks one has in mind will be ordered by importance. Tasks that seem most urgent will be on top. But there are worthwhile tasks to perform lower down on the list. Doing these tasks becomes a way of not doing the things higher up on the list. With this sort of appropriate task structure, . . . the procrastinator can even acquire, as I have, a reputation for getting a lot done.” Based on comments from my friends, like Benchley, I am perceived as someone who does get a lot done.

I truly have been incredibly busy. Yet, there remain undone several very important tasks including, until now, this post! A dear soul has offered to produce a video and to revamp my website to help drive business. This is a hugely important task and should have already been done. But I have let too many urgent but in reality unimportant activities take precedence. Stephen Covey would be so disappointed in me, but the sadder fact is I wonder how disappointed Christ is in how I have invested my time. Generally speaking my choices have been good ones, but there is no question that I should have made better choices and set higher priorities.

Christ is the ultimate example of good time management. When you look at how little time he actually spent in the flesh on this earth and all that he accomplished, you realize he never went anywhere or did anything randomly or without plan or purpose. He was amazingly effective in a short amount of time. At the wedding feast in Cana, he did not succumb to the urgent pleadings of his mother but waited until just the right moment to turn water into wine. Even the times he went apart for rest were for the purpose of equipping himself for continuing ministry.

In The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Stephen Covey says it is not an issue of time management but of self-management! Ah, there’s the rub! The choices I make often reveal a lack of self-discipline. It is much easier to clean out the email inbox than to compose a new blog post or write a contest speech. Ministry to others is among my priorities, but when so much time is spent in this worthy pursuit that proper rest is not taken and other spiritual pursuits are compromised, I have to wonder how ultimately effective is such ministry. Proverbs 16:3: “Commit thy works unto the Lord, and thy thoughts shall be established.” The Lord is our resource for right self-management.

Perhaps there is hope. Since starting this post, I have steadfastly battled urges to make a cup of tea – have a snack – go through unopened mail – check my bank account balance – start a new reading project – straighten my desk – check the emails that have dinged in while composing this or finish a Hallmark movie that I left to write this post! The Lord be praised!

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