Tuesday, July 14 2020 - 5:11 AM
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Reasons We Procrastinate

This week I tackled several of my least favorite home cleaning chores. I cleaned the small chest freezer and the refrigerator. I am still amazed. Like so many other humans, I tend to postpone activities of the “I’d rather do something else” category. Such chores as cleaning floors, windows, weeding, and other maintenance needs are bottom of the list. Or some medical issues, like getting the shingles vaccine. Or another not favorite— taking pets to the vet. And oddly some of the cleaning chores are often simple therapeutic measures that help one to feel accomplished and useful, according to research. Many times our lives are spent on work and goals that provide little immediate gratification.

Oddly, much of adult life seems to be held in the tension of how to say “no” to too much to do, and hesitating to tackle necessary tasks. Then it’s also deciding what is really necessary for me—or to delegate. That is not to be confused with nagging other family members.

I have heard business management people express the concept of hiring out all the time-consuming dirty jobs saving one’s energy for the greater good or better use of skills. While visiting South Africa, our friends told how they were sometimes chastised for doing their own manual tasks by local people needing employment. Some people refuse to hire others since they don’t believe their possessions will be treated carefully, or others won’t complete the tasks to their satisfaction. (We are tempted to call them “control freaks.”) However, dreams may stay on hold or other consequences will unfold if you can’t trust anyone to help!

People are often confused by their own procrastination. A variety of internal messages must be playing when we “put off” dealing with stuff that continues to tug at our attention. Sometimes we blame our spouse or children with an internal pity party. “Why do I always have to be the person who______”, or “I can do it tomorrow,” or “I work better under pressure,” or “It’s too messy, too hot, too cold, etc.” or “I hate reading manuals,” or “It might hurt a lot.” I’m certain there are times when we avoid a task simply because we think no one will notice our effort or work. Just who are we doing it for?

We tend to believe labels and lies that have been told to us by parents, teachers, friends. So we may continue to say to ourselves: “I’m just lazy,” “I’m no good at cleaning,” “I’m not smart enough to figure this out,” “I’m an all or nothing kind of person.”  Then the mess gets bigger or more broken and our confidence is too weak to tackle such a big problem or ask for help. Perhaps it’s also about being afraid of the outcome if we do make a decision and the ensuing criticism.

I remember a former client who was dying of cancer, and he was avoiding making his will due to superstition that it would hasten his death. I had to remind him that if he didn’t make his wishes known, that the state would take over whatever he left from his hard work and life. He had to face the sad reality of his own broken family relationships by making a will. Avoidance could be an aspect of grief for some.

Here are some ideas that might help procrastinators:

  1. Daily small step-by-step accomplishments can rebuild confidence and self-respect, at work or home. That includes a regular time of asking God for strength and wisdom—bathing the mind in his love so you know your worth and identity.
  2. Try “chunking” the chores by picking one step today, or this week—with a reasonable goal.
  3. Collect the needed tools for the project so you have what will help. Just beware of more procrastination by a distracting shopping trip for supplies. (Memories in a hardware store.…)
  4. Start to dispute and challenge those internal labels: “I’m going to give this a try.” “Even if I don’t finish this today, I will set aside 30 minutes to do ——.” “I am a capable person.”
  5. Hold in mind that warm positive feeling (relief?) of completing a chore, task or goal, instead of feeling dread or anger. You may even need a small reward for completing each step—not necessarily sweets or expense.
  6. Finally, know who to call if you are in over your head: resources. Many people find the Internet to be a valuable library for ideas and instructions. Again, beware of “rabbit trails” of distraction while seeking help in the morass of YouTube.

I am not the procrastination expert as my home office will attest.  However, I am God’s person in progress and so are all of us. Courage!

Questions for personal journaling or group discussion:

  1. What is your favorite excuse for procrastinating and what do you believe that says about you as a person?
  2. How might procrastination be affected by your connection/disconnection with God?

Karen Spruill writes from Florida.

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About Karen Spruill

Karen Spruill

writes from Orlando, Florida.

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