Is it a sweet smile ... or is it a subtle smirk?
These are questions that have baffled art lovers for centuries while gazing upon the mysterious expression that graces the face of the renowned Mona Lisa. By some accounts Leonardo da Vinci spent up to 15 years painting the puzzling portrait, and many wonder if death precluded what he would truly consider his "finishing touch."
Along with "artist" a vast array of tags have been affixed to da Vinci, such as engineer, musician, anatomist, and mathematician, but many are surprised to hear that there is another apt description – procrastinator. The Renaissance man rarely completed any task on time, and it was the threat by patrons to withhold critically needed funding that at times propelled his productivity!<sup>1
So distraught was da Vinci about his procrastinating ways that he lamented in one of his final journals: "Tell me if anything was ever done .... Was anything ever done ...."<sup>2
At the start of 2014 how can you and I avoid the detrimental emotions associated with the "decay of delay?" Consider the following steps to strive toward completion in all aspects of life, leading to greater personal fulfillment, greater blessing to others and greater glory to God!
TEN STEPS TO SUCCESS
1. Acknowledge that procrastination smothers all sense of motivation.
"The craving of a sluggard [procrastinator] will be the death of him, because his hands refuse to work" (Proverbs 21:25 NIV 2011).
2. Tell God honestly that I am tired of fighting the clock and pray for wisdom and help in using the time He has given me.
"There is a proper time and procedure for every matter ..." (Ecclesiastes 8:6 NIV 2011).
3. Keep a record at all times, tracking everything I need to do in a planner and checking off each task according to the exact day and time I do it.
"... there will be a time for every activity, a time to judge every deed" (Ecclesiastes 3:17 NIV 2011).
4. Refuse to "major on the minors" but keep the "main thing" the "main thing" by prioritizing each day the five most important tasks to be done and then do them in that order.
"… he who follows empty pursuits will have poverty in plenty" (Proverbs 28:19 NASB).
5. Evaluate the time needed to complete each project – be realistic. Then add additional time for "hidden costs:" unexpected interruptions, reviews, and delays.
"Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Won't you first sit down and estimate the cost to see if you have enough money to complete it? For if you lay the foundation and are not able to finish it, everyone who sees it will ridicule you" (Luke 14:28–29 NIV 2011)
6. Resist the temptation to feel guilty if an unforeseen situation arises making it impossible for me to complete all my tasks in one day. Continue to persevere the next day, again giving top priority to the five most important tasks.
"Do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded. You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised" (Hebrews 10:35–36 NIV 2011).
7. Recognize my negative self-talk when I get emotionally stuck and change my thoughts and internal dialogue to reflect God's truth about me and to please God.
"May these words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, LORD, my Rock and my Redeemer" (Psalm 19:14 NIV 2011).
8. Ask a friend or someone wise to help me if I struggle with getting started.
"The way of fools seems right to them, but the wise listen to advice" (Proverbs 12:15 NIV 2011).
9. Yield my life to Christ, giving Him total control.
"I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me" (Galatians 2:20 NIV 2011).
10. Claim God's promise to provide everything I need through my dependence on Christ.
"His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature, having escaped the corruption in the world caused by evil desires" (2 Peter 1:3–4 NIV 2011).
Procrastination dogged Leonardo da Vinci for too many days of his life, adding needless anxiety and taking away joy. May this new year for you and I be instead punctuated by rewarding productivity and being faithful, useful vessels that fulfill the awesome purposes of God!