The irony about procrastinating reading a book written to increase productivity and curb procrastination, did not escape me. Having read Taming the To-Do List in its entirety in less than 24 hours, I have nothing short of praise and gratitude towards its author, Glynnis Whitwer. Not one to pick up non-fiction ever, this was the first 'self-help' book I'd ever read. Whitwer begins by narrating how she has struggled with accomplishing tasks and highlights procrastination as the root of her woes, before detailing how we can pin-point exactly how procrastination negates our efforts, and concluding with means of tackling the issue (with the help of God. Did I forget to mention it was a Christian self-help book?)
"God has promised forgiveness to your repentance; but he has not promised tomorrow to your procrastination" St Augustine
"To find wisdom, I need to silence the demands of many to hear the commands of One" Chapter 1
IDENTIFY THE PROBLEM - The reality of the life of a 21st Century adult is that we try and fail to cram far too many tasks and responsibilities into our days, without identifying or allocating the capacity to manage it. "No matter how much you do, what bother you most is what you didn't do" Chapter 1. There is far too much truth in that statement to belittle it with the theatrical chime of YAS! As much as I have achieved in life, what bothers me most are the hinderances I have encountered, and the things left undone. Whitwer states that the "biggest change in society...was a shift in responsibility...[the] burden of communication had shifted from the sender to the receiver" Chapter 1. As a result, "rather than being proactive...[we are] reactive" Chapter 1. We are powerless over our own fate, and spend hours playing catch-up with emails, appearances on social media, and to-do lists all year long. Thus, its no surprise that upon encountering an obstacle, we take what should've been a break to reassess and continue, as a reason to delay and completely avoid X entirely. Once we understand that "busy work is the thief of our best work" Chapter 1, we will be better equipped to deal with procrastination strategies that take us on mindless detours, rather than tackling the hardest and most meaningful work there and then!
"To change a habit, you must keep the old cue, and deliver the old reward, but insert a new routine" Charles Duhigg - The Power of Habit
"We were created for so much more than productivity. We were created for relationship" Chapter 8
STEWARDSHIP - "The heart of a procrastinator believes tomorrow is a promise" Chapter 1. How arrogant of us to see the future as a given? I'd never once thought of my flippant actions like that, but it is true. From a Christian standpoint, I discovered that it was actually sin to procrastinate (James 4:13-17)...go figure! Admitting I had a problem, and using the practical exercises Whitwer provided in the book, helped me see how I'd assumed authorship and possession of my own fate. You see, "we are stewards of the only moment we are given - which is now" Chapter 1. Stewards, not Creators. All we can do in any given moment is our best. It curtails the likelihood of lying to cover our tracks, or the burgeoning work that'll inevitably pile up if we put it off for too long.
"Everyone can change tomorrow. But the only changes that matter are the ones I make today" Josh Riebock
"Every wrong attempt discarded is often a step forward" Thomas Edison
PROCRASTINATION - "procrastination is an intentional delay of something that is in our best interest...a voluntary delay of something we could do but chose not to" Chapter 2, "not a label that we are lazy or disorganized" Chapter 2; and it "doesn't define you" Chapter 15. This was reassuring to read, because by this point, I was dipping in morale. The reality is, our "first instinct [is] to stop when [we] first felt pain" Chapter 3, but Whitwer helped me see that "in order to get stronger, [we] had to experience the pain" Chapter 3. What my mum had come to term, there is no sweet without sweat. "Procrastination isn't a sign there's something wrong with us but...an opportunity for growth in our lives" Chapter 2. Isn't that amazing? We aren't shut down or shrugged off for our innate desire to put things off to an elusive date, rather Whitwer states that acknowledging it as a problem and by-stepping it to achieve our greatest goals is what God desires for us. When we procrastinate, we delay the most important tasks in favour of lighter ones, and when we eventually get to it, we have little or no time to complete it to our best ability. Thus "our results will be superficial and lacking richness and depth" Chapter 5. We all want the end goal without undergoing the hard tasks required to achieve it; "shortcuts are coveted" Chapter 3, but "Resistance Makes Us Stronger!" Chapter 3.
"A hero is no braver than an ordinary man, but he is brave five minutes longer" Ralph Waldo Emerson
"Our identity is not defined by our actions, and so we will never be a 'failure' when our performance doesn't match our expectations" Chapter 6
SELF-REGULATION - "self-regulation is critical for long-term well-being" Chapter 2, and we can only do it for ourselves. This is why no matter how much you'd like to depend on bae to temper your desires, it takes a self-love journey to rightly acknowledge your own weaknesses, and find means of re-rooting yourself to a greater strength than man can provide. Whitwer teaches that acknowledging one's cost culture ("every yes to one choice is...a no to something else" Chapter 4) is the first step to identifying the reasons you procrastinate. The second is devising means to press further towards the end goal. Whitwer highlights different means of achieving this, and I will only state a few (in a bid to steer you to purchase the book): create a manageable to-do list by breaking down one-step tasks away from multiple-step projects; enlist the help of an accountability partner; delegating to capable individuals. We cannot live life successfully in isolation; "proactive work isn't selfish" Chapter 12.
"The only true failure is to never try" Chapter 6 - Taming the To-Do List