Procrastination—You Don't Have To Know Everything

"Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men."
Colossians 3:23 (ESV)

Art ©Richard Krzemien, The Writer at Work
All Rights Reserved

The Procrastinator’s Poem

I’ve gone for a drink and sharpened pencils,
Searched through my desk for forgotten utensils,
I reset my watch, adjusted my chair,
I’ve loosened my tie and straightened my hair.
I filled my pen and tested my blotter

And gone for another drink of water

Adjusted the calendar, and I’ve raised the blinds

And I’ve sorted erasers of all different kinds.
Now down to work I can finally sit. 

Oops, too late, it’s time to quit.
—Author Unknown

Like the man in the poem, I’m a procrastinator. This is something I’m working on in 2012. My goal is to resist the temptation to procrastinate.

People procrastinate for different reasons. Some are lazy, and others just put things off because they don’t have time.

An incident from the American Revolution illustrates what tragedy can result from procrastination. It is reported that Colonel Rahl, commander of the British troops in Trenton, New Jersey, was playing cards when a courier brought an urgent message stating that General George Washington was crossing the Delaware River. Rahl put the letter in his pocket and didn't bother to read it until the game was finished. Then, realizing the seriousness of the situation, he hurriedly tried to rally his men to meet the coming attack, but his procrastination was his undoing. He and many of his men were killed and the rest of the regiment were captured.

Nolbert Quayle said, "Only a few minutes' delay cost him his life, his honor, and the liberty of his soldiers. Earth's history is strewn with the wrecks of half-finished plans and unexecuted resolutions. 'Tomorrow' is the excuse of the lazy and refuge of the incompetent."
[Source: Our Daily Bread February 2, 2009.]

When I was an editor at Golden Books, I worked with a wonderful man who acted as a liaison between the Editorial Department and the printer. Wally’s job was to keep everyone on schedule, and his favorite phrase was, “I deal only in absolutes and certainties!”

My problem with procrastination isn’t so much with laziness or time, but rather with absolutes and certainties. Before I start something, I want to have all of the pieces and know exactly how they fit together. I want to know everything. And when that isn’t possible, then the task seems overwhelming. I want to procrastinate.

One day a young man moved into a cave to study with a wise man. He hoped to learn everything there was to know. After giving his student a stack of books, the wise man sprinkled itching powder on his student's hand and left. Every morning the wise man returned to the cave to monitor his student's progress. "Have you learned everything there is to know yet?" the wise man asked.

And every morning his student said, "No, I haven't." Then the wise man would sprinkle itching powder on the student's hand and leave. This was repeated for months. But one day, as the wise man entered the cave the student took the bag of itching powder and tossed it into the fire.

"Congratulations!" said the wise man. "You've graduated. You've learned you don't have to know everything to do something positive. And you've learned how to take control over your life and stop the itching."
[Source: Today in the Word, May 1, 1992.]

Every day, I’m trying to "stop the itching" by following the advice given in 1 Chronicles 28:20: "Be strong and courageous, and do the work. Don’t be afraid or discouraged by the size of the task, for the LORD God, my God, is with you. He will not fail you or forsake you." (NLT)

Whatever the reason for procrastination, it isn’t good. Proverbs 24:30-34 (NIV) says: "I went past the field of a sluggard, past the vineyard of someone who has no sense; thorns had come up everywhere, the ground was covered with weeds, and the stone wall was in ruins. I applied my heart to what I observed and learned a lesson from what I saw: A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest— and poverty will come on you like a thief and scarcity like an armed man."

Are you a procrastinator or have you overcome procrastination? I would love to know your story.


Karen Lange said...

I can be a procrastinator for certain things, too. Like you, I feel like I must have a handle on everything first. I often just about stand on my head working around the thing that I think I might have trouble with. I am getting a little better; one of my goals for this year is to make headway in this area. Thanks for the encouragement!

Jean Fischer said...

Hi, Karen.

I haven't stood on my head yet, but if I get desperate enough, I'll give that a try (LOL).

Thanks for stopping by.

Tyrean Martinson said...

Great post! Although I think it's important to know the details, I truly believe that if I don't know something I can "layer" it in later during a revision, as long as it's not a plot-driving detail. Procrastination is just painful . . . and I've suffered from that too.

Susan J. Reinhardt said...

I'm interested in so many things that it's a temptation to bounce around. I'll see a fun crochet pattern, and my mind plans a trip to the yarn store. Someone announces they're giving a course in pottery, and I think about what fun I could have learning to make a vase.

I guess my procrastination tendencies stem from distraction.


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