Procrastination, Anyone?

Procrastination, Anyone? January 9, 2013

It is the beginning of a New Year, and, according to Jimmy Kimmel’s monologue last night, only 8% of Americans keep their New Year’s resolutions. Procrastination probably has something to do with that.

Here are my New Year’s Resolutions for 2013.

Cease negative self talk.

Accept divine forgiveness to a greater degree.

Expand tech skills

Take better care of spiritual, mental and physical health.

Stop procrastinating

It’s already 9 days into January. So far I have one success in the area of expanding tech skills. I improved my skill at creating photo albums and tagging pictures on face book.  I have also resumed my daily journaling and Bible reading. So there is a second success in the area of taking better care of my spiritual health.

Unfortunately, I have engaged in negative self talk, resisted divine forgiveness, and procrastinated.

Speaking of procrastination, they say it is the result of perfectionism, but sometimes I think it is the result of preoccupation with stupid stuff, or at least stuff more trivial than the task I should be doing but am procrastinating about.

“Never put off until tomorrow what you can do today” is variously attributed to Poor Richard (Ben Franklin) and Thomas Jefferson.

“Go to the ant, you lazybones; consider its ways, and be wise.” (Proverbs 6:6)

I was in Atlanta at the National Festival of Young Preachers with six students from Perkins School of Theology where I teach January 2-5. It was a wonderful Festival aimed at encouraging young preachers and helping them hone their skills. I was thrilled to be there, but I began to feel bad physically. I was tired,  losing my voice, and coughing. But heroic denial set in- “I can’t be ill because I need to preach, lead a workshop and give feedback to young preachers on their sermons.  This is not the appropriate  time to be ill. It’s not professional.  I need to bring my A game. I cannot be sick.”

Procrastination can come from the denial of reality. Preoccupied with denial and heroics, it took me three days to admit I didn’t feel well and to remember that my brother- in- law Rob  is a doctor and a superb diagnostician. We call him the Dr. House of our family. Finally I called him in Pennsylvania and described the symptoms. He diagnosed the problem as bronchitis and immediately called a CVS ¼ mile down the road from the hotel. In an hour I was picking up the meds and in another couple of hours, was beginning to feel a bit better.  But it could have happened three days before.  “I’ll go to the doctor if I feel worse tomorrow.” Have you ever heard anyone use that line? Use it enough days in a row and you don’t need a doctor anymore.

Why did it take me 3 days of suffering and denial to remember that we have a physician in the family?  The only good thing that came from this experience is the possibility that, at a metaphorical level, it might make a good sermon illustration. Why do we try to handle things heroically on our own and not ask for help when we have a Great Physician in the family?

It came time to return from Atlanta to Dallas. I took a cab from the Grand Hyatt in Buckhead to the airport. My cabdriver’s name was Samuel.  He told me that he only drove a cab part time.  “I have another job at the duty free shop at the Atlanta airport,” he told me.  “You would not believe this,” he went on, “but people often miss their flight because they are shopping in the duty free shop. They hear their departure announced. They see other passengers  boarding, but they cannot stop shopping.”

I did read one time that the same thing happens in Las Vegas. There are slot machines in the airport and people sometimes miss their flights because they can’t drag themselves away to board their plane.

Isn’t that ridiculous? That someone could be so preoccupied with trivialities that they would miss an opportunity or neglect a duty? Procrastination with regard to some crucial opportunity or duty can be the result of absorption in less important pursuits. In their extreme forms, I guess we’d call them addictions.

So I’ve learned my lesson in the first 9 days of this New Year.  I’m going continue to keep the New Year’s Resolution of “Stop Procrastinating” as a goal.

But in case I fail at any time in the year to come, I’m going to invent a new word for “the act of  procrastinating again”-  recrastination. It has a nice ring to it, but let’s hope I don’t have to use it.

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