Procrastinate or Take Shortcuts?

procrastination shortcut

I’ve told this story before about a road trip that Nan & I took where we were first married. One leg of our journey required that we cross over the Sierra Nevada mountains. Rather than taking the well-traveled route, I looked at a map and determined that I could get over the mountains quicker if I made a couple of changes. The result: Nan & I almost got stranded on a precipitous and deserted dirt road, and ended up at our destination much later than expected. I was worried. Nan wasn’t impressed. I repeat this story because it is still so vivid in my memory.

As I go through life, I am tempted to procrastinate or take all kinds of shortcuts. I like to rationalize those choices as smart or efficient sometimes, but often it’s just laziness. Why wash the dish or put it in the dishwasher now when there will just be more piling up soon. Wouldn’t it be more efficient to deal with them all at once? The same logic applies to the mail, or bills, or anything else. No, the truth is that really I just don’t want to put out the effort in the moment. So I surround myself with a bunch of delayed or half finished tasks. And later I feel overwhelmed by all that needs attention and how much extra time it actually takes because of the postponement. When I procrastinate, I may limit myself in what’s possible to accomplish in the remaining time. When I take unnecessary shortcuts I may eventually make life more stressful.

We can do the same with our relational life as well. I think of someone that needs to hear from me, but I tell myself that I will send out emails all at once – later. But often later never comes, or the important moment has passed. Perhaps I am anxious about a confrontation that needs to happen but I wait until it is more difficult or painful. Or just the opposite, I have kind words, loving words, or affirmations that would mean a lot to someone, but I think I have all the time in the world to speak them. But again, the moment may pass.

Look around yourself. Does your environment give you peace? Are you afraid to open closets, drawers and cabinets? How about mail, snail or electronic? If you left the earth today would the people you care about see the person you would want them to remember? Or would they discover a person who lived in chaos as they settled your affairs?

I must confess that there are a lot of undone things in my world. Not all of them are because of laziness. Some are because I am undecided. I am not always sure what holds value for me but will not for someone else. Will someone else see the value in the books I have collected or the Christmas ornaments that were given to us as gifts over the years. Should I keep them, dispose of them or pass them on? But sometimes it’s just an excuse for not wanting to expend the necessary effort to complete the task.

I think we can live a “Cliff Notes” kind of life if we are not careful, just doing the minimum necessary to survive, but not experiencing enough depth to add richness to the journey. That’s a shortcut, for sure. The result might be that I build a negative self image that prompts me to self sabotage some really important things.

I also want to extend grace and caution those who are perfectionistic by temperament. You are already too self critical, so this post is not for you. For you, I would have you evaluate other criteria. If everything seems essential, then you need perspective. You need to be more selective in your diligence to manage everything or everyone.

When faced with any decision or task, ask yourself this question: “Could I follow this through to the end and make life less complicated?” If the answer is “YES”, then be your own best friend and just do it!

Ripped Off By FOMO


Our flock of wild turkeys

The premise is simple: because we have a fear of missing out on life (FOMO), we stare at smart phones for hours and actually miss out on life. It’s sad and it is increasing our levels of depression, especially in kids and teens.

It is true that they are physically safer locked in their rooms staring at social media, but emotionally they are being compromised. Why? They are aware of all the things they didn’t get invited to, or are not able to participate in. And it makes them depressed, sometimes even suicidal. And it distracts them from homework and joining in with the family.

Granted, earlier generations may have sat around the “boob tube”, soaking in the inane antics of some comedy show. But at least it was a group activity, usually with some sort of interaction and running commentary. There was a sense of togetherness that just seems missing today. But truthfully, there was a bigger world just outside the front door that was being largely ignored then also.

How about us adults?

Are we much different? I guess our work life or parenting interrupts our addiction to social media, but it seems like the ubiquitous cell phone travels with us everywhere. Could it be that by our example we are actually reinforcing the value of constant electronic connection to our kids?

I didn’t have a smart phone until this month (and truth be told I’m still afraid to learn it) but I sure have wasted thousands of hours on my computer. I don’t deny that it has added a lot of value to me as well, and surely wouldn’t give it up. I mean, how would I know my schedule? How could I write spelling perfect blogs without it? But do I really need to know who is angry over whatever?

As I get older my real fear is that I will miss out on the one and only life that God has granted me. I’m scared I will miss out on all the wonderful things that surround me while I have my nose stuck in a 14” laptop or a 6” smart phone screen. And I am sad that I am such a willing participant.

Every night around dusk a flock of wild turkeys walks down to get a drink from the river. Occasionally they will be joined by a few deer. Ducks will float down the river on their journey to who knows where. But many days I miss it because I am nose down in electronic media gathering useless information. What is it that I am afraid of missing out on that’s more important?

There is a myth that we must carve out quality time for children – but the truth is that quality moments come in the midst of a quantity of time. Quality moments can’t be scheduled and they can’t be manufactured. They just happen, and we want to be there when they do. And not just with our children. The other people we care about qualify as well. Sure, we are busy and so we have to do the best we can within the constraints of life. But even so, if we are absorbed by FOMO we will likely become a victim of it. Look up, not down. Don’t get ripped off.

Are You Self-Destructing?


There is nothing more painful for me as a counselor than to watch someone self-destruct. When a threat comes from the outside it is possible to help the client evaluate  and set boundaries with the source of their distress. But when the client’s own behavior is the cause of their pain, it is often hard to get them to place boundaries on themselves.

Of course we know that breaking denial is the first step, and from a distance it is usually relatively easy to see. But even when we are not in denial of our issue, the motivation to address it may be very low because of fear. What is that fear? It’s always about some kind of loss – and loss means grief.

I have a lot of compassion for people who are wrestling with the possibility that they are their own worst enemy. I have been there – more than once, and it hurts.

When it comes to addictions, the fear can be the loss of our life coping mechanisms. It could be drugs, alcohol, shopping, pornography, relationships, etc. Or it could be the loss of a dream that we hold onto, when it is unrealistic or not achievable without huge and unreasonable sacrifices.

I have seen women addicted to exercise and diet to the extent that they put their very life in danger. Why? They are believing that a “perfect” body will attract a “perfect” relationship.

I have seen men destroy relationships of all sorts in pursuit of a career that leaves them empty and unsatisfied. Why? They believe women are only interested in a big paycheck or powerful, successful men.

Very early on in our marriage I held some of those same beliefs with regard to my career choice as a musician. There is nothing inherently bad about that choice for a person. But the instability, temptations and unpredictability were more than I was able to manage. But it was a dream from my early years. If I had been selfishly persistent I probably would have self-destructed. For sure it put my marriage at great risk.

What can we do?

The Bible tells us to count the cost. (Luke 14:28 & Proverbs 20:25) In doing so, we may find that the trade-offs of denial and living a fantasy are just not worth it. Part of this may be that we don’t trust God to see us through to a better future. Instead we take control with a self-destructive trajectory. We may need help to gain clarity and perspective. That takes courage. It means being willing to hear what we need to hear, and not just what we want to hear, knowing that this is the kindest action we can take with ourselves.

Proverbs 14:12 (NLT)
“There is a path before each person that seems right, but it ends in death.”

Mark 8:36 (NLT)
“And what do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose your own soul?”

This is not about losing our salvation, but about leading a soulless life in the present. We were made for joy and freedom and deep connection. But we must be careful where we believe that deep connection resides. We must choose well in our faith, our relationships, who we trust, and what we pursue.