I wish I had less time

August 31, 2017

For some people, having too much time to complete a project just allows more time to procrastinate.

I never thought I’d say it, but I wish I had less time, sometimes.

You see, like most people I lament that there isn’t enough time to get everything done.

The curse of modern life is that we have got so many choices, so many options and so many things and people we feel responsible for that we are continually busy.

Somewhere back about 1990 I think we changed the way we answer the familiar greeting question ‘‘How are you?’’ Pre 1990, I’m sure that when asked this question we answered in terms of our health.

We’d say, ‘‘Well thank you, and yourself?’’

After 1990 it seems to me that we started answering this question with reference to our diary and commitments. Today if you ask someone ‘‘How are you?’’ the standard answer is ‘‘busy’’ or ‘‘really busy’’ and then they may detail all the commitments and appointments and unfinished tasks from their week, explaining that there just isn’t enough time.

But then there is the not so small issue of procrastination.

As sure as I give myself lots of time to complete a task, I’ll procrastinate.

Usually it has to be a pretty important task to get a special amount of time allocated to it.

Usually it has a deadline, which always pushes things up the priority order.

I may even block out time in my diary to ensure that I get on with it.

But then, just as I’m due to start, I’ll procrastinate.

I am overcome by the acute and irrepressible need to go to the kitchen in case something new might have found its way into the refrigerator since I last looked 20 minutes ago.

Sometimes I’ll procrastin-clean.

Sometimes I’ll procrastin-check-email or procrastin-Facebook.

I’ve even been known to procrastin-weed-the-garden.

But basically, I’ll put off doing this difficult ‘‘A-priority’’ task and instead do a series of low-priority easy tasks until the deadline is so close I have to succumb to the pressure and rush to complete the task that must be done.

I’ve always assumed that procrastination signals various psychological deficits: anxiety, fear of failure, a self-sabotaging perfectionism or the delusional hope against hope that tomorrow will be a better day to start my important task.

While no-one who knows me well has ever accused me of being a perfectionist, I beat up on myself for my lack of discipline and time wasting.

What I’m doing is wrong; and not just because I’m wasting time that could be spent on that A-priority, but because I believe that good people are defined not only by output but by method.

Surely, the best way to do anything is in a straight line.

My zigzagging feels to me like a moral failure.

My wife says its because I’m a ‘‘raging P’’ in some psychological-personality profile (Myers Briggs).

The irony is that I usually get the task finished and it’s usually done well enough and sometimes it’s done very well indeed.

So I’ve decided to accept myself for who I am: I work to deadlines.

I work more efficiently when I know that there is no time to waste.

I will give myself less time.

I take some comfort from the Gospel stories of Jesus setting out to do one thing and always seeming to get interrupted or diverted by another.

His main mission is to train and educate his disciples, but he is continually healing, teaching and responding to the crowds who want his precious time.

Somehow he finds a way to do both.

There is never enough time to do everything, but always enough time to do the right things.

This is the gospel, and its good news.

— Brian Spencer, Minister, Tatura Uniting Church

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