Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Killing the Art of Procrastination

I've always loved to read, but I can think of one instance when I hated reading. I think I was in second or third grade, and I had to do a book report on a Hardy Boys book. On the day before it was due, my parents discovered that I hadn't read a single page of the book I was supposed to review. I'm not real sure what my plan was. Maybe I was going to just make up what the story was about. What were the chances that the teacher had read that same story, after all? Plus, making up my own stories has always been more fun anyway. But my parents decided that if I had to review this book, then I needed to actually read it.

So they made me read it...

...all evening long...

...until I finished.


Every word began to feel like acid splashed on my eyes. Instead of playing Nintendo or rearranging my baseball cards for the one hundredth time, I had to read what was going on in the Hardy Boys' world. Who are the Hardy Boys anyway? To this day, I have no idea what I read or what my book report was about.

I wish I could say this was the last time I've ever put something off until the last minute. Many people struggle with what author Steven Pressfield calls resistance. Resistance is a force that automatically starts pressing in on us the moment we know that we have to do something important that requires any sort of creative thought, or that might require any degree of risk of criticism.

It's the voice that whispers, "You can always wait to do it later," when you know you have homework to do, when you want to write a novel, when you want to start a business, when you need to fix the dishwasher (speakiing of, I need to fix our dishwasher, but maybe I can do it later), when you want to become a better parent or spouse, when you need to pray or read the Bible, when you need to change something critical in your life, and any other project you can imagine either wanting to do or feeling responsible to do.

Last week, I wrote about creating courage in other people. Resistance is the enemy of courage. Though there's so much we need to do to live life to the fullest, we often lack the courage to silence the voice of resistance.

In Romans 7, though Paul is talking specifically about our ability to live rightly, what he describes is exactly where resistance comes from. We're truly our own worst enemies, and it is us, our fears, and our bad habits that stop us from doing what we need and want to do. Paul says, "For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate...For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out...I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members" (Rom. 7:15, 18, 23).

However irrational it is, the feeling of resistance often gives us the sense that what we're about to tackle is impossible. So we have to do what is impossible before we have time to realize it's impossible. We have to silence the resistance early on, before it has a chance to talk us out of doing what needs to be done. Jon Acuff talks about this in his book QUITTER in relation to chasing our dreams. We can't give our resistance the time to get into our heads and give us all the reasons why we shouldn't do what we're about to do.

We have to act.

We can't procrastinate.

We have to be proactive.

We have to be diligent.

We have to put our resistance to death.

"A slack hand causes poverty, but the hand of the diligent makes rich" (Prov. 10:4)

What are some methods you use to avoid procrastination?

Photo Credit: alancleaver_2000 / Alan Cleaver on Creative Commons

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