I wonder if you’ve had similar experiences? You are listening to a conversation or an interview and bam! You hear something that is counter-intuitive. It may be even nonsensical. Yet you know there is something in what you just heard that needs to be carefully considered.
It was a couple of weeks ago now. I was listening to an interview featuring a respected leader in her industry. Unfortunately, I don’t remember her name, but I was ‘stopped in my tracks’ by a phrase she used.
Here was the context. She explained that her great challenge was to remain a creative and clear thinker. Until she made this one change she was at the mercy of the many demands and responsibilities of her vocation.
As a result of this one change, she is discovering that it is easier to remain creative in her work. A work surrounded by a swirl of activities, responsibilities and of constant meetings.
I stopped listening at that point. I was ‘taken aback’ by that paradoxical statement. “TO REMAIN A CREATIVE, CLEAR THINKING LEADER SHE LEARNED TO PROCRASTINATE WELL.”
So, here is what I’ve been wondering.
What if we re-defined the highest aim of productivity and creativity? What if we were to see it as our contribution to a larger story that continues into future generations? Imagine yourself living your life in such a way that you leave a generous legacy. A legacy that stretches well beyond your imagination. I think that would be a life well lived.
Here’s my thought. “To build such a legacy, you need to know how to practice delay”.
How might we re-frame ‘being productive’ or ‘successful’?
I think every ‘vocation’ contributes to something larger than itself. At least, I believe that is the original intent. It is only natural that we want to measure what we and others are doing in respect to that contribution. So depending on that standard our contribution is either productive or not. It is either a success or not. It is either good or not good enough. We see contributions as either an asset or a liability. Of course, we all know what side of the balance sheet we want to be on.
To reframe what is successful and what is a failure, rethink the criteria used to judge one over the other. What is our basis for determining success or failure?
What would change if we used the standard God uses to determine worth? As I read through 1 Corinthians 13 it strikes me that no matter what we build or grow or do, if love is missing it has no value.
It occurs to me that love is the primary means of measure.
It occurs to me that if our vocation incarnates agape love we will add value.
Frederick Buechner has us think about vocation in this manner. “The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.”
Courageous leaders are willing to wait
The first word the apostle used to begin describing agape love is ‘patient’. He then continues with other descriptors of this kind of love. As well as, what love is not. (1 Corinthians 13:4-8). He chose the word patient as the starting point for good reason. Everything about love rests on the need to practice patience.
Practicing procrastination well is ‘willingness to wait when your surroundings scream ‘do something now’. Waiting is courageous. Not giving into the panicky voices and pressures to act now…the courageous leader waits. The courageous leader is one who cultivates a reservoir of inner strength.
Perhaps it is now time to make a clear distinction.
You can also procrastinate poorly. Many of us know this one. It is to delay action because of fear and uncertainty. Courageous leaders don’t avoid action, they are willing to procrastinate well because of love.
A Procrastinator’s manifesto … First Draft
When formulating goals in my life, I am not done until it is clear how that goal features agape love. (Willing the good of those I serve)
My strategy for keeping my goals embedded with love is two-fold. Slow down my inner pace and add 1/3 to a conservative time line to reach the goal.
When I am pressured to act or speak quickly, err on the side of delay.
Before saying yes to new initiatives, I consider one question. “If I say yes to this new venture, what am I saying no to?
Declare war against efficiency. Intentionally waste time with people whose relationships I value. (learning to procrastinate well)
Expect to live a genuinely productive life through the careful practice of delay.
I expect that when we learn to procrastinate well, we stand a better chance of making better decisions. We make better decisions when we delay long to think with clarity.
When we live a hurried, stressed filled life, it is extremely difficult to love well. It is hard to live out God’s good purposes for us. It is hard to live in the intersection of our deep gladness and the world’s great hunger.
What do you think? If you were to practice delay what would the impact be on your longings to live a productive, fruitful life?