Confessions of a closet procrastinator
- Tuesday, April 06, 1999
But after college, something happened. I now found myself having two lives that needed to be tended to and meticulously planned. In my career, I was managing the finances of a small start-up company. Huge amounts of money were traversing in and out of columns on our financials and I was in charge of tracking every penny. In my personal life. . .I had to pay my bills. MY bills. MY little, teensy weensy (by comparison to the company's) bills. Somehow, that was a task too herculean to handle. I would watch them come in the mail, stack them in a corner, grow anxious as the pile grew, and somehow rationalize that I had been paying the company's bills all day. I've had enough of bill paying. I'll do it later.
And then, horror of horrors, came the annual event that rivals the terror of ANY college final, tax season. I was famous for watching the clock all day on April 15th to assure that I made the postmark deadline. Amazingly, it's not as though filing the 1040EZ was hard. It was, as the name implies, fairly EZ to do the math and my simple financial existence produced very few records to keep.
It was at that point I recognized that I was not immune to the disorder that had befallen so many of my peers - procrastination. It was scary enough to consider how blind I had been to the effects of this syndrome, worse yet was the fact that every time I uttered the word I heard it in my head to the tune of Rod Stewart's "Infatuation."
Now that I'm not even working for that company any more, I have no such financial duties at the office and YET there they sit, in an ever-expanding pile, my bills. For some reason the thought of my mood quickly plummeting through the floor as I go into battle with checkbook in hand paralyzes me into stagnation.
So they sit. I sit. As a result the pile grows along with its effect on my checking account. I've actually had to budget some money for the appropriately titled "stupid fund," allowing me to feel better about the money I've squandered in the form of late fees.
It's not as if I don't know any better or that I'm lacking the skills. Something in me just fights the logical side of my brain that knows darn well that my procrastination is going to cost me. I frequently ignore the learning I received several years ago from the following very appropriate story:
Suppose you come home one day to find a dead elephant in your living room. Elephants tend to be rather hefty, so the likelihood of your picking it up is unlikely, (and it's not as though he would fit through the door anyway.) Short of retrofitting your home into a convertible, you'll just have to let him sit there, rotting. Given that the value of your house will nose-dive as soon as prospective buyers notice the carcas that has become a piece of furniture (what else are you going to do with it?), you can't move out either.
You'll just have to get him out. (Now for the moral of the story.) So how do you extricate a dead elephant from your living room? That's right. Piece by piece.
Elephants? Relevant? Definitely. When the pile of bills is, in your mind, elephantine. Or when the prospect of preparing your taxes looms in your future darker than extremist predictions of New York City in the Y2K. The trick is to break down jumbo-sized tasks (or in this case Dumbo-sized) into more manageable pieces.
By the way, I tell you all of this not because I'm proud of my procrastination tendencies or my seldom-used elephant parcing strategy. I share to give those in misery a little company as you stare at a blank tax form (that's assuming you're ahead of me and you've picked them up.) Let's face it, when procrastination marries financial responsibilities, the penalties produced from that relationship take all sizes and forms.
Elephants tend to be different for everybody. Perhaps yours takes the form of a long-term financial plan, paying off a credit card, buying life insurance, or all those things that you continue to put off despite common sense which instructs you otherwise. The trick is to agree that you don't want to watch that elephant rot anymore and make a commitment to start tackling the removal one step at a time. Then pray.
Mathew 23:2-13 tells the parable of the 10 virgins who await their bridegroom for the wedding feast. While bill paying or elephant extrication is severely lacking in charm compared to a wedding feast, the avoidance tactics used in the parable are applicable because the virgins fall asleep. Awakening to the arrival of the bridegroom, the "foolish" ones recognize that they are without enough oil to trim their lamps. In going to buy some, they miss the feast.
So now that you're feeling "foolish" and panicked that you've let the elephant rot too much, take heart that it's never to late to start tackling things piece by piece. We know that God is big enough to overcome even the largest elephant, be it a financial matter or otherwise.
Now that I've outted my procrastinating tendencies, I guess I should go pay one or two of my bills. I'll probably start at the bottom of the pile . . .
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