UpBeat Spiritual Living: HaveToDoThisFirst Syndrome
This post was cheerfully inspired by my new friend Susan Wilson, as will become clear below.
How many times have you tried to start a project, even on deadline, and found you just HAD to do a number of things first? Did your banking bubble to mind, and you just had to check your balances before settling down to the current project? Did you realize your Mom sent you a family business email last night? And you just HAD to pull that information and email it back to Mom before starting the current project? Did you realize you needed to confirm your client appointments for the next day, and this seemed very much more urgent than starting the current project?
Many people reasonably argue that all these HaveToDoThisFirst things are signs of procrastination. Procrastination is widely regarded as a bad thing. But what is your actual experience with HaveToDoThisFirst Syndrome?
One of my favorite bloggers, Susan Wilson, did a wonderful post this week on “The ‘I’ll just do this first’ minefield” (http://ripplespillers.com/the-ill-just-do-this-first-minefield/). I loved this article! She reasonably argues that we should go within and pull forth what it is we are avoiding doing, then do it.
My husband uses a similar technique. Especially when his list of to-do’s is massive, he starts the day by asking himself, “what would I least like to do?” And then he does that task. Now. The rest of the day then always seems easy. No more resistance to that annoying task. It’s done.
For those who go into very deep concentration, it may be a different matter. It’s more enjoyable to delve deep when the details are cleared up, when the desk is clear. With those little things settled, you can even turn off the phone and enjoy bulldozing through the current project, knowing the nagging items are done until tomorrow. So maybe the best way to proceed depends on how your particular brain works.
If we are calling this HaveToDoThingsFirst Syndrome “procrastination”, then there is a lot of advice available. John Perry, Stanford Professor Emeritus and author of The Art of Procrastination, talks about the way procrastinators’ brains work. He argues that procrastination can be a useful, even productive, habit. It depends how you apply it, or “structure” it. Perry says, “Procrastinators seldom do absolutely nothing; they do marginally useful things, like gardening or sharpening pencils or making a diagram of how they will reorganize their files when they get around to it… The procrastinator can be motivated to do difficult, timely and important tasks, as long as these tasks are a way of not doing something more important.” For more of Perry’s philosophy, see http://www.structuredprocrastination.com/ .
Spiritually, it makes sense that we are supposed to make the most of the gifts we have been given. Ephesians 5:15-16 (NIV) offers: “Be very careful, then, how you live —not as unwise but as wise, 16 making the most of every opportunity.” And Proverbs 13:4 (NIV) offers: “A sluggard’s appetite is never filled, but the desires of the diligent are fully.” Ancient words, timeless wisdom: it feels great and serves you, to make the most of your time and opportunities. It’s truly satisfying to get your projects done.
● Rev. Kebba Buckley Button is the author of the 2012 book, Peace Within: Your Peaceful Inner Core.
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