Stop the World! I Want to Get Off!
Have you ever gone through a stretch when life threatens to overwhelm you? There are just so many things to do, so many challenges to overcome, so many demands on your time, that it just seems impossible. You want to throw up your hands in despair and shout, “I’m outa here! I can’t do it all!” I’ve been here many times, and I suspect you have too.
I recently read an excellent article by Elisabeth Elliot, the influential author and missionary widow of the martyr, Jim Elliot.
Elizabeth describes how, following the death of Jim, she faced a life full of confusions and uncertainties. She lived alone on a jungle station with an entire church of new believers now looking to her for guidance. She had a ten-month-old baby daughter, fifty newly-converted believers and no spiritual leaders, a diesel generator to operate if she wanted electricity in the evenings, an airstrip to keep clean, a boy’s school to supervise, a women’s literacy class to teach, and medical work to do. Not to mention the normal duties of a young mother and dealing with her own grief in the loss of her husband.
Elizabeth had heard of an old Saxon legend, “Do the next thing.” And that statement took her through the next days and months. She could only do one thing at a time. It had to be the next thing.
Calling all Procrastinators!
Any of you who are like me, a procrastinator, know how this works.
I have written a whole post on this topic, so won’t repeat it all now. It’s written with writers in mind, but it starts like this:
- Study the picture at the top of a page.
- Start your day by checking on Social Media.
- Check your emails.
- Read a few blogs you enjoy.
Is this beginning to sound like you? You can read the post here: Why write when you can procrastinate?
Let’s look at a typical morning start to your day.
You decide to make a healthy breakfast.
- But first, you need a cup of coffee.
- As you put on the kettle, you notice it needs a wipe, so you fetch a damp cloth.
- Then you notice some dishes you didn’t wash the night before. First, you need to quickly wash them.
- Oops! You’re out of dish-washing soap at the sink. No problem, you have more in the store cupboard . . .
- But when you get there, someone has rearranged the shelf and you can’t immediately find what you’re looking for.
- Naturally, you need to repack the shelf.
- While you’re about it, the shelf paper is looking pretty tacky. Fortunately, you have some more in the kitchen cupboard . . .
- Half way through the day, it occurs to you: I’m hungry! You never did have that healthy breakfast.
- And guess what? Cleaning cupboards was not even remotely on your to-do list for the day!
Ever had a day like that?
Well, I’ve decided to try and make Elizabeth Elliot’s motto mine. For the last week, I have been concentrating on doing the first thing! Not only have I been more productive, I have found this liberating.
For example, I was coming to the end of an article I was writing. I had a message on my cellphone: “I’m next door in my cottage. Please can you come?” This was from a neighbour who was in the process of moving out of her home. The sense of being needed nearly knocked me off my “do-the-first-thing” pedestal! But I remembered just in time.
I knew it wasn’t an emergency. She didn’t say, “HELP!” So that wasn’t the next thing for me! The next thing was to finish what I was doing.
Once I completed the task, I gave a quick prayer. “Lord, what is the next thing you want me to do? Should I visit my neighbour? You know it wasn’t on my list for the morning.”
I immediately knew I needed to go, but before I left, I lined up in my mind what the NEXT THING would be. So I went to see her and help where necessary, but with a clear picture in my mind that I couldn’t spend hours there, as I had to get on with the next thing!
It worked. I was home within half an hour, leaving a happy neighbour, and feeling good for having visited her but not wasted hours chatting. My day was still on track.
Don’t become paranoid!
I don’t believe we’re meant to draw up a list and frantically work through it, ignoring anything else that crops up (like my neighbour’s request). I’ve been there, done that . . . and ended up stressed out of my mind. But that short stop at the end of each task, followed by the question, “What is the NEXT THING?” helps me keep my eye on what is important, and what can wait until later.
So how about you?
So your next thing? I’m hoping it’s to write a quick comment!
Have a great day!
**If you’d like to read the full post by Elizabeth Elliot, you can read it here.