Posts tagged #wisdom

Her Life Looks Great Part II: She’s Doing It Better Than I Am

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I want to share a recent experience I had with you. Most recently this issue collided with my homeschooling, but it has happened in so many aspects of my motherhood before. Please forgive the long intro if you aren’t a homeschooling mama, but it helps to serve the point I’m getting at. :)

It was time to prepare for the next homeschool year. I was full of goals, hopes, and dreams. Before I got carried away by publishers’ promises and colorful curriculum covers, I felt the Lord putting the pause button on my heart. He seemed to whisper, “Stop. Just pray first. Don’t buy anything.”

And so I began weeks of prayer. Instead of looking at curriculum websites and listening to all the benefits of using their program, I thought about my young family. What do we have time for? What do I want homeschooling to look like in our home? Who are my children? How do they learn?

Oh wait--an email for a curriculum sale! Can I buy something?! No. Okay. I get it, I’ll just pray.

I have evaluated questions like these many times before. I believe vision casting is key--especially when you are setting out on the sometimes-isolating journey of home education, feeling the subtle skepticism of some around you. But medical challenges in our family caused me to re-evaluate my methods, priorities, and limitations. I’m thankful they did. I decided to look for someone farther along in the journey than I was to glean from. The non-negotiable part of my homeschooling day is cuddling up with my kiddos on the couch for a devotion and reading time. We read. And read. And read. I learn so much about the way their minds work as we experience stories together. Anyway, I sought out someone with the same values. Of course Sarah Mackenzie is the leading cheerleader for Christian parents to read to their kids. It turns out that she has a very similar Meyers-Briggs personality to me, so it makes sense that I am so inspired by her. I prayed through a lot of Sarah’s resources. This helped me narrow down my focus and my curriculum choices.

Then I made a schedule of what our ideal day would look like. Would we have time for the curriculum I was looking at? Were these programs really accomplishing the goals I had set? Did the books provide opportunities to disciple and shepherd my kids? When I was confident I was committing to the appropriate amount of materials, I felt peace to purchase the items. I very clearly felt I was supposed to do less and do it well before I could consider adding any more to our day. Sarah says, “What our kids need most is a calm, happy mother to homeschool them”. I so agree, and I felt certain that I was on the right track.

The books arrived. They fit so nicely on their shelf without being overcrowded by expensive books that would barely be opened. The school year began. I felt such peace about the Lord’s direction.

A few weeks later, we had an orientation and picnic for our homeschool co-op, and I was introduced to another mom. She was lovely. She had four boys, so this mama of three boys and a girl immediately felt connected to her. She was sweet and humble with the softest hint of a southern accent. She was calm even as she nursed her newborn in a park while keeping tabs on her older sons and having conversations with strangers. And she was wearing an adorable trendy jumpsuit. I immediately knew we’d be friends. After a few more quick conversations at homeschool pick-up, I told her. “I’d just love to pick your brain about homeschool and what it looks like for you.”

She agreed it would be great to talk more, and we got together a few weeks later. Awhile into the conversation I found out that Lily has a blog. She loves to pour into moms and encourage them where they are at. So I went home so excited to have a friend with so much in common. And then I started reading her posts.

My stomach sank as I looked at her homeschool schedule.

She was doing more than me.

She had different curriculum than I did.

She even had time to blog about it.

I wasn’t doing enough.

I must have bought the wrong books.

I didn’t even know some of these existed.

I must not have researched enough.  

Basically--I was doing it wrong.

Have you had those moments? Those days? Those weeks?

There are times God puts people in our path to give us wisdom. And there are other times He has already given us the wisdom and we need to stick with it. We all have different personalities and different life situations, and we need to be faithful to who we were made to be.

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I’m sure you’re laughing at how quickly I had forgotten my prayerful process.

God had so calmly and patiently guided me through the steps to create peace and joy in my home. And it was working. I was loving my days. I had learned so much about my kinesthetic-learning second-grader, and he was having a much better year. My kindergartener and preschooler were thriving with the curriculum I bought. My baby was faithfully napping according to the schedule I had set. I was spending more one-on-one time with each child, aiming to foster security in their hearts. We were off to a great start. Until I let the lies creep in.

As I began to doubt myself, the Lord put two verses on my heart…

You were running a good race. Who cut in on you to keep you from obeying the truth? That kind of persuasion does not come from the one who calls you. (Gal 5:7-8 NIV)

He said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten of the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?” (Genesis 3:11)

Who snuck in on me? Who told me I was naked/not enough? I did. No one else. I said I wasn’t good enough. I said I needed to do more. I let comparison rob me of joy.

Did Lily do anything wrong? Absolutely not! She was just being a woman after God’s heart. I was disappointed with myself, and the fact that I couldn’t do everything I had once planned on doing. Seeing someone else able to meet those goals was difficult for me. But obeying the Lord and surrendering our plans is what we are called to do. I hope to be a cheerleader for her as she follows after God’s direction for her family. I don’t want my sensitivity for comparison to stifle relationships.

To be honest, I was over this episode of comparisonitis pretty quickly, but I share it because I was amazed that after all of that prayer I was so easily able to doubt God’s leading in my life.

So how do we protect ourselves from comparison? Do we vow to never read a blog post, look on Instagram, Facebook, or Pinterest? Avoid all parks, play dates, and mom groups so we don’t have to hear about all the things we aren’t doing with our kids?

Do I even need to answer that one?

Of course not. It’s not where we go that’s the problem. It’s how we go. (Although sometimes a social media fast is in order to protect our hearts.) God gave you your kids. He chose the genders, the order, the birthdays, their personalities, their coloring, etc…, etc…, etc…. And He gave them YOU. With your experiences, your idiosyncrasies, your cooking abilities, your laundry folding preferences, your love languages. He gave them YOU. No one else on this earth is going to crank out a kiddo just like yours. (And that’s a good thing!) And no one else should have exactly the same parenting game plan. God knows you and knows your kids, so He should be leading. As we seek Him each day for wisdom, embracing His plan with confidence, we can shrug off the urge to compare and encourage our sisters. I think it’s also key that we write down or journal the guidance He gives us so that we can look back and be reminded we are where we are supposed to be. Sharing these revelations with a friend is also very helpful!

 Let’s press on in His wisdom!

Posted on February 22, 2019 and filed under Building Your Family, Building Your Faith.

Practical Forgiveness: Starting the New Year With a Clean Slate

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The change of years on the calendar is a unique time. It is a time of reflection on many things. We look back at the year behind us, our failures and hurts, triumphs and highs. We think about what we did right and what we need to do differently. It is also a time of looking forward.

 

We make resolutions, think ahead, consider our hopes, and how to work toward our dreams. It’s especially a time of gratefulness, that we have been blessed to see another year to completion and have breath and life in a new one. There is a sense of rebirth, of starting over. This year I’m especially thoughtful about the “blank slate” of a New Year, and how that translates to forgiveness.

2016 held some hurts among its many joys. The offenses were small, but I find myself stung from the pain nonetheless. As a follower of Christ, I know that I am called to total and immediate forgiveness, without hesitation and without fail. On top of that, I don’t want to bring the wounds of the past year with me into the new one. My heart is to forgive. I want to be ever growing in gentleness and humility, and overflowing with the grace of God, which he has so lavished upon me.

The problem isn’t in my desire to forgive. It isn’t a question of whether I should or shouldn’t. The only obstacle is in the practical application. How does one actually forgive? In the most realistic of terms, how do you go through the steps of forgiveness and have your heart and emotions come in line with your mind and your faith?

I’m sure there are many ways a heart can reach true forgiveness. But there are four practical realities that I have been led to in recent weeks, as I searched the Scriptures, and I wanted to share them for anyone, like me, seeking a clean slate in the New Year.

 Reality No. 1 / You Have Been Forgiven Much

As He so often does, the Lord pointed me to Jesus as the answer to my questioning prayers. Jesus was God’s provision for our sin and the path to receiving His forgiveness. The words of Christ, so famously spoken on the cross, came to mind in an instant.

“Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” Luke 23:34

I spent some time letting that sink in. “Father, forgive them.” He wasn’t just speaking about the people who were guilty of His murder. He wasn’t thinking only of his closest friends, who had just betrayed him. He wasn’t thinking only of the crowds—the same who had once gathered for healing, now gathered to jeer and mock. He was speaking of us—of you, and of me—even as He drank the cup of God’s wrath to pay for what He didn’t do.

When you consider the cost of your own sin, it puts what you have suffered in a different relief.

In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his graceEphesians 1:7

(Click on the image above for a free pdf download.)

Your sins—however minor or justified you’re convinced they are—sent a perfect sinless man to the cross. He endured the shame, and the torture, and ultimately death, to forgive you for them. That is the reality of what it took. How much less have I been asked to sacrifice, to show forgiveness to the one who sins against me? Forgiving someone else starts with understanding what it took for God to forgive you.

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Reality No. 2 / They Know Not What They Do

Jesus continued with the words, “for they know not what they do.”

This statement is theologically and socially sticky, and I want to be very careful not to seem like I am excusing or enabling what has been perpetrated against you.

When Jesus said this, He wasn’t issuing a blanket “pass” for all the bad deeds humanity wants to heap up. This is not Christianity writing off sin with the lame excuse “he didn’t know any better.”

Of course, people know right from wrong, and they can and do choose evil. I want to speak carefully, because I know the unfathomable depths to which human depravity has sunk, and I cannot know or even begin to understand what it is to be a victim of it. I’m not in any way excusing the victimizer. What they did to you wasn’t ok. God proved that it wasn’t ok with Him by the punishment that Jesus received for it. If you are a victim, I urge you to seek godly counsel, and if you are still in any danger, get out of the situation immediately. Forgiveness doesn’t mean that you keep letting someone hurt you. Forgiveness is not enabling. Get safe first. Call the authorities. After that, a pastor or Christian counselor can help you walk the complicated path of healing and forgiveness that God desires for you. 

Because we acknowledge that humans have free will to choose evil, and Jesus is not excusing them from responsibility, it is almost strange that he says, “they know not what they do.” But this understanding may be the very key to softening your heart for another.

If you pay attention closely to the Gospels, you will see time and again the deity of Christ on display as he reads the minds of those around him.1 So I trust him when he says they don’t truly know what they’re doing. Humans are rarely, if ever, able to really stand in someone else’s shoes. Everything we do and say is born of our own experience, and colored by our own perspective, even despite our best intentions.

When Jesus said “they know not what they do,” He was acknowledging that unbelievers are blinded by the god of this age. 2 Corinthians 4:4 They are trapped in a state where they can’t know or see God’s plan or will, or be led by His Spirit. They are dead in their trespasses. Not hopeless, thanks to God’s grace, but for now, they are spiritually blind. As my pastor often says, “You wouldn’t slap a blind man.” We need to allow God to cultivate our compassion for people who are navigating this world apart from the guidance of the Holy Spirit. They can’t see, and they know not what they do.

Believers also, though children of God, are still part of a fallen world. We are human and fallible. And though we are hopefully growing in sensitivity to our own shortcomings, we are no less able to fall prey to them. And when we fall, all the worse, as our bad choices tarnish the Name of Christ and His church in the eyes of the watching world.

Reality No.3 / Your Words Have Power

All throughout Scripture, the words of our mouths are intimately connected to the attitudes of our hearts. What you say about a person will have a direct impact on your ability to forgive them. If I complain about someone, it’s not helping me, them, or the situation. Of course there is a time to ask the right counselors for wisdom. But grabbing a girlfriend for a coffee and a bashing session isn’t a good plan. Our words have power, and one of my convictions is that they need to be righteous. If I can speak with the attitude of forgiveness I wish I had, I believe that my heart will soon follow my words.

A friend of mine embodied this in the midst of a painfully cruel divorce and custody battle. Though she was a victim of her husband’s lies on the witness stand, she determined never to speak an ill word to her son of his father. I’m sure that keeping silent to protect her son’s opinion of his dad was one of the hardest things she’s ever had to do, but also one of the most important. It may temporarily make us feel better to build our case to a sympathetic ear, but ultimately it blackens the process of forgiveness and hardens our hearts. Let us speak the grace that we want to feel, while trusting God to fight for us in our silence. He IS a God of justice, He will surely bring it, and nothing escapes his attention.

Reality No. 4 / Apart from Him, I Can Do Nothing

So we’re on the path to practical forgiveness. We have accepted that our own sins were forgiven, and we have no platform to demand that others pay a debt to us. We have acknowledged that people who hurt us are blind to it in one way or another. We have resolved to guard our hearts by choosing careful words. These are important things, but they bring us to the end of our own strength.

The rest of it must be left with God through prayer.

Jesus said, “I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.” John 15:5

(Click on the image above for a free pdf download.)

We have to ask God to grant us a heart of forgiveness. Pray and ask Him to fight your battles. Ask Him for his matchless peace. His Word is a trove of promises—about His justice, His presence, His peace, His joy, His power—all of it unfailing, for the one who turns to Him in faith. Ask and you will receive a heart that overflows with forgiveness. There is no question that this is His will for you, and that He will grant it.

God wants what is best for you. If it were best to hold a grudge, or nurse wounds, or let roots of bitterness live in your heart, He would let you do it. But unforgiveness is cancerous to your soul, and He loves you too much to let you live with it.

This New Year, let us strive together for the blank slate of a resting heart, full of forgiveness. What healing it would bring to us, and to our world.

1 For further study- Jesus knows our thoughts; John 2:24, Luke 5:20-24, John 1:47-48, Matthew 12:25, Luke 6:8

2 For further study- Our words and our hearts are intimately connected; Luke 6:45, Psalm 19:14, Proverbs 16:24

Posted on January 4, 2017 and filed under Building Your Faith.

Talking About Making Babies (or How To Avoid Emotionally Scarring Your Children With Awkwardness)

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So there I am on a lazy Saturday morning, sipping on some decaf with my daughter, Phoebe. Aside from being 11, Phoebe is sweet, creative, insightful, and compassionate. She is also very innocent. On this particular morning, Phoebe looked at me mid-sip and said suddenly, “Wait, I don’t get it, how does the baby actually get into the mom’s belly?”

I looked back at her and oh-so-casually said, “Well, I’m gonna need a refill for this.” I can’t say I was surprised. I mean, she was 11, why hadn’t she asked me yet? Biding my time pouring the coffee, I realized I had not really in the traditional sense equipped myself for this moment at all. I had no plan, no bullet points, no book conveniently stashed away, I had nothing but the Lord. I walked back over and settled in on the love seat next to Phoebe and we had a really good chat. It wasn’t until it was all over that I realized that I had, in fact, done my homework, but not in the way you might think.

After the fact, here’s my list of what to do when my daughter asks me how babies are made:

1. Drop the Drama. I wasn’t about to relate to Phoebe that this talk was a huge deal, that it was a rite of passage for both of us, that she would remember it for the rest of her life. Why infuse more drama into an already heavy situation? No, we just refilled our coffees (she loves decaf), stayed right where we were, and talked. Let’s be honest, making babies, while being a gorgeous picture of God’s amazing creation and plan, is pretty weird. It involves boys, and body parts. It’s emotional enough without adding unnecessary pre-conceived drama into it as well. Making it more dramatic than it needs to be will simply stress everybody out.

2. Don’t Prepare. No joke. Not only did I not really pray about this moment (yet God was faithful, Amen and Amen), I didn’t read a pile of books about it to figure out what to say, or how to say it, or what pictures to show her, or really anything. Not that I don’t think those books have value, I just think it’s more important to know my daughter. What I did do was pay attention to Phoebe. I know what she knows, and I know what she doesn’t. Over the years she had asked some questions. They were more roundabout, more obtuse, and when she asked obtuse questions, I would give her obtuse answers. I never gave her more information than she asked for, because sometimes a kid needs a little bit of time to let information sink in before taking it to the next level. I would just answer the question and then wait for the next one, keeping my radar on for how much she could handle. Because I had faith that the Spirit of the Living God would give me the right words to say when I needed them, I didn’t study what to say, but I did study my daughter.

3. Cultivate Closeness. Not only do I know Phoebe really well, but she knows me. I call her my shadow. Yes, she’s homeschooled so we spend more time together than traditionally schooled kids might with their parents, but I would never say to a mom whose kids go to school 5 days a week that I’m closer to my kids than she is—no way. It isn’t about the amount of time; it’s what you do with the time you have, right? When Phoebe and I hang out we do normal stuff like make food, get crafty, watch a movie, listen to Elvis records, do school, and whatever else, but our predominant activity is talking. We talk all the time and we talk about everything. We really KNOW each other. So when she did ask the question about where babies come from, not only did I know she was going to ask it at some point soon, but with the Lord leading my every word, I knew what to say. Almost as importantly, I knew how to say it. A few weeks after the talk, I asked Phoebe if she had any thoughts about talking to me about that stuff. She said, “It would have been super-awkward and weird if it weren’t YOU telling me, but because it was YOU, it was fine. I mean, it's US, you know?” Yeah, I know.

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4. Simple is simpler. Of course I had to explain how it all happens. The actual sex part. Without using too many words, I gave it to her plain and simple, didn’t attempt to soften the blow, and I just stopped talking when I was done. I let her sit with it, let her process. After a quick and brutal explanation of which part goes where, the look on her face was pure shock and terror. I mean, she was totally freaked out. So much so that she actually began screaming and laughing into a pillow, which got me screaming and laughing too, so here we are screaming and laughing about how strange and funny sex actually is when you really think about it. That was my favorite part. It was so fun to let her have her reaction, to not attempt to name it or control it, to take the ride with her. I didn’t try to make it fancy, or belabor the explanation with diagrams, or use words that she wouldn’t understand—I just told her and let her have her moment with it. Simple.

5. Some Things Can Wait. Once we were nearing the finish line and wrapping it up, Phoebe was a little more curious. She wanted to know logistics, like how people do the things they do. I thought about it for a second and then finally said, “You know what, Feebs, you don’t really need to be thinking about that yet. You’ve got the facts, let’s leave it at that for awhile.” And we did. I want her to stay a child for as long as she can, because once that’s over you can’t really get it back. She’ll know all that and more soon enough, but for now I think it’s pretty okay that we can scream into a pillow about the weirdness of life once in awhile.

You have searched me, Lord, and you know me.
You know when I sit and when I rise;
you perceive my thoughts from afar.
You discern my going out and my lying down;
you are familiar with all my ways.
Before a word is on my tongue
you, Lord, know it completely.
You hem me in behind and before,
and you lay your hand upon me.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me,
too lofty for me to attain.
 Psalm 139:1-6 NIV

Posted on May 11, 2016 and filed under Building Your Family.

Why Entrusted?

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I took Entrusted with a Child’s Heart a little over 7 years ago. So much has changed since then.

I was a young, new mom with one child-- a sweet little 12 month old boy. I had chosen to pause my career to stay home with him, and we spent most of our days building forts, taking walks, and dancing to the karaoke channel On Demand.

I remember realizing when he was born that, for me, being a mom was much more natural than I’d ever anticipated. I just seemed to know how to hold him and how to comfort him, and other than having absolutely no clue how to change a diaper, the rest fell into place pretty easily. But I also felt a great weight of responsibility for his soul, and for the kind of man he would grow up to be. As easy as it was to calm a crying infant, I knew that it would not be so easy to navigate the waters of parenthood that would surely deepen as his needs became more complex and I had to teach him about the world beyond our four walls.

Entrusted was recommended to me by a couple of women at my church, so I signed up that September, knowing I would need the teaching for the years ahead. The next 9 months gave me a foundation of wisdom and deep friendships with Godly women that have lasted to this day.

Today, that baby boy is an 8 year old young man, whose two huge front teeth show up in a giant goofy embarrassed grin if you ask him about girls. He’s silly, and sweet, and sometimes angry, and curious, and loves to read, and hates spelling. He has a 6-year-old sister, an almost-3-year-old brother, and a dog. When I took Entrusted the iPhone wasn’t invented yet. Can you imagine? In the tips in Betsy’s class, she talked about printing out driving directions! And now, my son uses Siri for a dictionary.

The world, and my world, has changed so much in 7 short years.

I’m not the young mom anymore who can stay in pajamas and snuggle the day away. We don’t have much time for playing or dancing anymore. It’s moments like this that you realize how precious that time was, and you regret how the busyness of life and the need to get it all done has trumped the fort building and the story reading and the playing at the park. He has school, and homework. I have a small business I’m trying to build. We have swimming lessons, and baseball practice, and birthday parties, and house projects. There’s the ever-present pull of our to-do list. It changed in a blink.

What doesn’t change is the foundation.

I looked back tonight through my Entrusted class notebook with a sense of wistful nostalgia and a renewed sense of urgency about the three hearts I’ve been entrusted to raise. Am I the mom I set out to become? I was surprised to see notes about things I have held so tightly for so long that I forgot where they came from. Biblical principles that I learned how to put into practice in that class, now so ingrained they’re like second nature.

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I’ve clung to Christ and his word as the authority in our home. I try to make my marriage a priority. I’ve chosen a career that will allow me to work on my own schedule, and to be present in my home. Betsy encouraged us to define our non-negotiables, and though I’ve never done anything perfectly, I’ve tried my best to stick to them. In that regard, I’m encouraged to see I’ve stayed on course.

But I’m also convicted, as I read through the notebook, about all the time I’m spending doing, and not just being. Being with my kids, being in the word, being still and savoring God. How can I not be making time for playing and dancing with my 8 year old?

Looking through the class curriculum, the reminder is overwhelming: “Every Day Counts!” That message is on the book cover, and the wisdom that unfolds throughout is all about how high the calling of wife and mother is, even in a world that tries to devalue those roles more with each passing minute. It’s a practical blueprint about how to be an intentional mom. About how to not have a child-centered home (we should have a Christ-centered home), yet still make one that celebrates and nurtures your children to the fullest. It was a good gut-check for me to be reminded of the things I learned, and to reshuffle the priorities on my to-do list.

The Entrusted class isn’t something you take once and forget. It’s a foundation for a faithful journey through motherhood, one that I’ll always be grateful for.

 

Posted on April 15, 2015 and filed under Building Your Family.

Time Management: Overcoming Procrastination - Part 3 : Lessons Learned

Time Management Tips

This week I have been sharing about my life-long habit of procrastination and how I’m hoping to break it. First, I had to do the hard work of some honest self-evaluation. Next, I made an attainable goal of not procrastinating for just one day, and then for one week. Today I’m leaving you with thoughts about the Next Level, and some tough questions you can ask yourself, as I did. 

 

(To catch up, if you haven't read them yet, see PART 1: SELF-EVALUATION and PART 2: ATTAINABLE GOALS)
 

This is a lifestyle choice: to not be a procrastinator. As I reflect on my week, I realize it doesn’t end with a clean house, or with being on time for school. I would call that Level One, and I feel like I got pretty close to achieving it. 

But what is Level Two?

Remember how I said the to-do’s continued to grow? There’s a whole category called “Things I Should Do” that I just never did, because they weren’t urgent. These are the cherries-on-top of life. The moments that allow you to go an extra mile and exhibit a kindness. There are countless times throughout my days where I think of showering friends and loved ones with love in one of these ways, but I don’t afford myself the time to actually do it. 

Level Two:

  • A birthday card.
  • A note in a kid’s lunch box.
  • A knock on the neighbor’s door to say hi.
  • Playing with the dog in the backyard.
  • Exercise.
  • Vacuuming under the bed.
  • Responding to non-urgent texts or emails.
  • Calling someone just to chat.
  • Sending a surprise gift, just because.


So that’s my goal. Level Two. To be the kind of person who does the things she should, not just the things she has to.
 

Tips for Time Management

I know this series will resonate with some of you. If procrastination has been a struggle for you, here are some questions to kick-start your own self-evaluation:

Questions to Ask Yourself:

  • What small ways does procrastination creep in?
  • What huge thing am I procrastinating on right now? 
  • Why am I procrastinating on that task?
  • What did procrastination rob me of today? 
  • What one thing can I change in my routine to “do myself a favor” today?
  • If I had more time, what “Level Two” act of kindness would I do?


Remember our Entrusted memory verse, “For God is not a God of confusion, but of peace.” 
1 Corinthians 14:33. Order and peace are good goals and a wise woman seeks them.

Taking some time to think about these questions, and even to write them out, can be all the motivation you need to start making some needed changes. Try it for a day. See how it goes. You have nothing to lose. And I’ll be doing it with you.

Posted on March 13, 2015 and filed under Building Your Home.

Time Management: Overcoming Procrastination - Part 1 : Self Evaluation

Procrastinate [proh-kras-tuh-neyt]

verb

Time Management Tips

1.     to defer action; delay

2.     to put off to another day or time

I am 35 years old, and I am certain I’ve been a procrastinator since birth.

As a grade schooler, the science project always got started a scant few days before the fair. Books were read only days before a report was presented.

In high school, I remember waiting until the night before term papers were due to even start writing them. I would stay up all night and finish as the sun was rising. I’ve rarely missed a deadline, but I have always made myself insane trying to meet it at the last minute. It still happens all the time.

Help with Procrastination

It came to a head recently when I had committed to make some handmade decorations and ship them to a friend for a party. I waited until the very last minute to even start crafting them, and they took about 8 hours longer than they should have, causing me to ignore my family for a solid day and a half trying to get it all done at once. And worse than that, when I ran the package to the post office (a day later than I’d even hoped thanks to glue that wouldn’t dry), the cost to get the package delivered on time was $110. One. hundred. and. ten. The supplies had only cost me $5. I drove home from the post office in hysterical tears. It would have only cost a fraction of that had I gotten there a week earlier. But I had ignored the task and moved it from one day’s to-do list to the next every single day for weeks on end. Not only did I suffer during that period of time knowing I had a huge project looming over my head, but in the end I was beyond stressed trying to complete it, my family was ignored, and I wasted a huge amount of money needlessly.

I’ve often made excuses for procrastinating. “Well, I just work better under pressure,” or “I need to have a looming deadline before creative inspiration can strike.” Whatever I told myself, true or not, I couldn’t keep living this way.

After drying my tears and doing some hard self-assessment, I realized just how pervasive procrastination is throughout my daily life. If my car is down to a ¼ tank, I will drive right past the gas station; I only get gas when the gauge crosses the red line. If the dog food bin is getting low, I’ll wait until it runs out completely before hopping over to the pet store. I routinely lie in bed for 15 minutes looking at my phone after waking up, or linger over a cup of coffee before I get dressed in the morning. If a blog post is due Monday, I start it on Sunday night. I only clean my house before company is coming over. If there’s a pile on the stairs that needs to go up, I walk right past it. Somewhere inside I’m thinking, “There’s plenty of time later in life to pick up that pile and put it away.” Side note: one of the worst things about being a parent is watching your flaws get passed on to the next generation. Now I watch my kids walk past the pile on the stairs! Every time. They don’t even see it. Not good.

It is routine in my life to exchange the task at hand for a more pleasant or interesting one until that task becomes absolutely necessary. The consequences can range from stress and feeling rushed, all the way to wasted expense, and even-- though it hasn’t happened yet, thankfully-- personal peril! What happens the day I run out of gas during a Chicago winter??

Help for Procrastination

Before I could train myself to think, and therefore act, differently, I decided it was important to get to the root cause of my procrastination. So I made a list of all the reasons I do it.

Why do I procrastinate?

  • The project or task is too huge/ overwhelming.
  • I don’t like it.
  • I’m shy or feel awkward.
  • I can’t make a decision.
  • I don’t have the tools or supplies to do it.
  • I don’t know how to do it.
  • There isn’t a good time.
  • I’m too tired.

OK, now we were getting somewhere. If someone brought that list to me, it would be easy to slash it apart and give a rebuttal for each excuse. And let’s be honest, these are excuses! When I wrote them out on paper, it was embarrassingly plain to see that. But as with most feelings, I’d never taken the time to articulate and assess them. I just responded with rote physical action (or inaction, as the case may be).

From there, I looked at what specific times of day and in what situations procrastination was most often affecting my daily life.

What times and in what ways am I susceptible to it?

  • Getting out of bed in the morning.
  • Dishes. I’ll do them later.
  • Laundry. There’s always time to put it away.
  • Leaving the house. There’s still plenty of time to get ready.
  • Projects. It’ll come together eventually.
  • Deadlines. I can do it the day before.
  • Birthdays. She doesn’t need a card to know I love her.
  • Exercise. I’ll start in January.
  • Going to bed on time. I still have too much to do (or TV to watch).

I quickly realized that procrastination was stealing some things from me.

What does it rob me of?

  • A clean home.
  • The ability to invite someone over or feel comfortable if someone stops by without notice.
  • An organized environment for my family.
  • A stress-free work life.
  • A peaceful transition from home to car on the morning commute.
  • Progress. The project drags on and on. Or stalls completely.
  • Meaningful interpersonal connections (personal and business).
  • Health.
  • REST.
Starbucks Makes Everything Better

Ouch. It’s true. When I stay in my pajamas for too long in the morning, then I’m running around barking orders and hustling out the door, always forgetting something. “Mom, are we late?” has become a normal part of my kids’ vocabulary. And seriously, there have been days I would have loved to call a friend and ask her to stop by for coffee, but couldn’t because the house was such a wreck. That’s not fair to me or my family. Or the friend who needs coffee!

Tomorrow I’ll share with you what goals I set and changes I made, in light of all this self-evaluation. I’ll also share the experiment I embarked on to kick my procrastination habit to the curb.

PART 2: ATTAINABLE GOALS

PART 3: LESSONS LEARNED

Posted on March 11, 2015 and filed under Building Your Home.