As our sixth grade teacher explained our social studies project, my best friend, Dawn, and I agreed to be partners. Anticipating some fun time together, we agreed that she would build the physical part of the project, and I would write the report on our chosen state, Hawaii. With those important decisions made, we promptly forgot about it. After all, we had two weeks.
A Few Days Later …
Thirteen days, six hours, and five minutes later, Mr. Herrmann reminded us that our projects were due the next day. Bug-eyed, Dawn and I stared at each other. Neither of us had started. No need for panic, we reasoned; we still had all afternoon and evening, right? Things were under control—after all, what could go wrong?
After school, I piddled around eating my favorite snack, grabbed a few blank sheets of paper, wrote HAWAII at the top and settled down to officially write my report. “I’ll just turn on Gilligan’s Island for a little ‘island inspiration,’” I thought.
As soon as I heard the first notes of the theme song, “Just sit right back and you’ll hear a tale …” I did exactly that. Thirty minutes sailed by as I sat right back, and my paper was just as blank as when I started. My mom called my sisters and me to dinner, and I jumped up, famished from thinking about that report.
It happened to be my turn for dishes that night. At 7:45 p.m. I finally finished and shuffled to the kitchen table, feeling a twinge of panic. “I wish I had gotten a book or two out of the library,” I thought. Then I remembered our ancient set of encyclopedias and ran upstairs to get volume H.
At 8:30 p.m., my mom called, “Girls, time to get ready for bed!” I ignored her call and continued writing. A few minutes later, I heard her steps heading out to the kitchen. Stomach churning, I looked up to see her staring.
She listened to my complaint about having a lot of homework and then ferreted out the truth as moms know how to do. I was in for a long evening.
She sat down at the table, grabbed the encyclopedia, and pulled out some information from the entry. “Make sure you include these important facts,” she said. “Good luck writing it. And don’t ever wait so long to start a project again.”
Bleary-eyed and clutching my report, I looked at Dawn the next morning and told her about the evening. She waved red-stained fingers in front of my eyes. “My mom wasn’t very happy about having to take me to the store to get clay for the project,” she said. “That stupid clay was as hard as a brick, and I worked all night pushing it onto a board. Then I made toothpick huts and stuck those in.”
I looked at her clay huts and asked where the toothpicks were. “My dumb brothers decided to ‘play’ with the huts when I was done and smashed them, so I had to start all over! Then I didn’t have enough toothpicks left, so I had to make them out of that ‘concrete’ clay. My hands hurt so bad,” she moaned.
I wish I could say that I never procrastinated again, but that’s not true. Procrastination is a hard habit to break, but the Hawaii report fiasco propelled me to face some hard facts about my character:
Lessons from the Procrastinator’s Trenches
- Procrastination limits your options. When you wait until the last minute, the best resources are gone or there’s no time to get them. Some other hard-working student has already checked out the best library books. The supply section at the store is picked over. There’s no time to order that perfect item from the website.
- Procrastination leads to desperate work. A bit of desperation is a good thing: it can put you at Jesus’ feet like nothing else. But when you’ve done no preparation, full-on desperation mode is not your best work. You’ll settle for second best or mediocre or worse, terrible, just to have it done.
- Procrastination hurts other people. Whether a team is depending on you or your mom sacrifices her evening to help you, procrastination’s effects spread far beyond yourself.
- Procrastination prevents you from achieving all you can. You will never find out what you’re capable of unless you offer your best work. And chronic procrastinators rarely offer that.
It might be that you are a chronic procrastinator. Or perhaps you are putting off just one thing God is asking you to do. Right now break that pattern of procrastination by taking it to Jesus in prayer. Ask the Holy Spirit to direct your efforts. Then meditate on this verse:
“There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven.” (Ecclesiastes 3:1.)
Action step: Determine what things are “in season” for you right now, and then do them. Take step one, step two and so on. Sometimes just taking that first dreaded step is enough to prime you for the rest of the project.
Have you walked the bumpy road of procrastination? Feel free to share any of your own struggles or victories in the comment section below.
*Note: That is my actual report and class picture. Dawn and I are actually visible in the picture. She is in the second row up from the bottom with the plaid shirt and glasses. I am in the bottom row with glasses and crocheted vest. Yes, I’m a bit of a pack rat, and had I received a bad grade, it would have been poetic justice!
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