I wish I had less time

The Tatura Guardian - - News - — Brian Spencer, Min­is­ter, Tatura Unit­ing Church

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 pro­cras­tin­clean.

Some­times I’ll pro­cras­tincheck-email or pro­cras­tinFace­book.

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 self­s­ab­o­tag­ing 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.

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