David Meigs is a novelist with a background in youth outreach, specializing in ministry to at-risk youth and their families. Though his writing is enjoyed by all ages, his novels provide a unique, life-changing quality, critical for the youth of today. David and his family lives in Seabeck, Washington, where he serves his church as youth pastor.
Breaking the Procrastination Pattern
By guest columnist Loree Lough
NOTE: On December 21st Dave Meigs home burned to the ground
and he and his family lost everything they owned. The parent
organization of this magazine, Christian Fiction Blog Alliance (CFBA)
has joined with Anne McDonald, the Northwestern Zone Director of
American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW), to gather funds for the
So . . . weird thing happened this morning. I took one of those e-mail online quizzes entitled “Are You a Procrastinator?”
It’s a sore subject with me, since in my opinion, it’s something I do way too much. Four pages of Q&A later, I got my score, and, whoa, what a surprise. But I’m not going to share the number with you . . . yet. First, I’ll share some stuff I learned about procrastination.
The word, as you likely know, comes from the Latin procrastinare, and literally means “to delay or postpone.” Think Scarlet O’Hara, whose personal mantra was “Oh, fiddle dee dee, I’ll just worry ’bout that tomorrow.” At the opening of Gone with the Wind, the dark-haired beauty had a parade of servants to help her tick things off her to-do list. Then war raged, rearranging her life and her attitude toward putting things off, or leaving them undone.
Shrinks agree that one of the main reasons we procrastinate is fear. (If we don’t do a thing at all, how can we fail at it?) The trouble with that mindset is procrastination is self-sabotage. Every action or thought that keeps us from performing becomes an obstacle, blocking forward motion . . . along with our attempts to succeed.
Procrastinators are made, not born. Maybe as kids we watched Mom and Dad put stuff off and picked up the bad habit. And maybe we developed the habit to rebel against “by the book” parents. Something to think about, for sure, if we hope to become on-timers.
Procrastinators actively look for ways to avoid “stuff.” If we’re distracted by barking dogs or blaring sirens, well, is that our fault? If we don’t feel like doing what’s expected of us and substitute other chores instead, we get to tell ourselves, “At least I wasn’t just sitting around, wasting time!”
In general, people don’t take procrastination seriously. At least, not nearly seriously enough. Think of all the times when people have promised to do something for you, then let you down . . . and you accepted their flimsy excuses, even when you didn’t believe them. That not only grants them permission to behave irresponsibly, but absolves them from feeling accountable as well, which means they’ll feel free to do the same thing again.
Statistics show that more than 20 percent of Americans feel they’re procrastinators. They’re late with their bills. Late to work. Late sending cards and gifts. Late turning in projects. Are they lazy? Deluded? Selfish and/or self-centered? Crazy? (All of the above?)
Procrastination forces prevarication. That is, to continually excuse our own bad behavior, we have to lie not only to the people we’ve disappointed, but also to ourselves. And the worst kind of lie we tell is the one we tell ourselves.
Perfectionism and procrastination are bunk mates. Dotting every i and crossing every t seems a very legitimate reason not to deliver, show up, pay what’s due, whatever.
And did you know that procrastinators have a much higher incidence of alcohol and drug addiction? Couple of explanations for that: 1) We tell ourselves we’re gonna quit “after this next one”; and 2) (and I think this is the reason) we “partake” to hide from overwhelming guilt, shame, and self-loathing. And why wouldn’t we feel that way? It isn’t like we can hide from who and what we are . . . and the damage and chaos that result from our procrastination.
So what do we do about it?
We get tough on ourselves, that’s what. We decide what we really want out of life, then figure out how to make it happen:
We write serious to-do lists that are physically and mentally doable.
Now back to my procrastination quiz. I scored 32 out of a possible 100 points, which, according to the pros who crafted the test, means I don’t procrastinate very often, after all. That surprised me, ’cause I was fairly certain I’d end up with a big P on my forehead.
And then another weird thing happened. Human nature being what it is, I saw that 32 percent and thought, “Lotsa wiggle room between there and 100 percent . . .” Meaning I could goof off a whole lot more and not pay too hefty a price. Almost instantly, an assortment of excuses and rationalizations began buzzing in my brain, like “writers are solitary creatures; putting stuff off will allow you to commune with your peers” and “putting stuff off feeds your muse, and that’s good for your writing.”
Thankfully, reality smacked me up-side the head, and I was quickly reminded how awful it felt on those rare occasions when procrastination caused me to disappoint someone. I remembered, too, that my fear of turning in a project late would make me look less professional, and I worked too long and too hard to get where I am in this industry to behave like an amateur at this stage of my career!
But the real pain came when I acknowledged that putting stuff off starts the avalanche of disappointments that land, in the end, in the lap of our Lord. How ungrateful and flat-out wrong that would be, since it was God who blessed me with the talent to write, who opened doors and windows and paved pathways that allowed me to turn my humble words into a ministry of sorts that carries His words to readers who need to hear the message He’s written on my heart.
Guess I’d better focus on what the experts said after they tallied my score: “Procrastination can be a major setback in reaching your goals. With 32 percent, there is still much room for improvement, so be conscious of the times that you do procrastinate and make an effort to stay on track.”
That coupled with a heartfelt prayer that I’ll develop a keener sense to know which things I can let slide and those things that must absolutely, positively be done now . . . so that I’ll never disappoint Him.
At last count, best-selling author Loree Lough had 70 books, 59 short stories, and over 2,500 articles in print. Dubbed “edgy, heart-tugging adventures” by reviewers, her stories have earned dozens of “Readers’ Choice” and industry awards.
A frequent guest speaker for writers’ organizations, government agencies, book clubs, college and high school writing programs and more, Loree has encouraged thousands with her comedic approach to ‘learned-the-hard-way’ lessons about the craft, and 600 (and counting!) of her former students are now published authors.
Loree splits her time between an Allegheny Mountains cabin and a home in the Baltimore suburbs, and shares both with her husband and a formerly-abused, now-spoiled Pointer whose numerous vet visits inspired the nickname ‘Cash’. She loves to hear from her readers, so feel free to write her at email@example.com. “And please,” she adds, “visit my blog (www.theloughdown.blogspot.com) and my soon-to-be-improved web site (http://www.loreelough.com) where, if you’re patient, you’ll hear some hauntingly beautiful music.”