I studied the store’s colorful display, looking for the perfect birthday card for my friend. Other shoppers came, quickly selected and left, but I spent ten minutes intently browsing for a funny one that suited my friends sense of humor. Finally, locating the perfect combination of art, sentiment and price, I headed for check-out.
Later that afternoon, I sat at my desk to write a message in the card. Remembering all the fun we’d had together in the past, I ended with, “Let’s get together some time. We haven’t had a visit in ages!” I put a stamp on the envelope. As I licked the flap to seal it, I sadly thought, “Every year I suggest we get together, but we never seem to do it.”
The phone rang as I returned from the postbox. Another friend I see frequently was on the other end of the line. After a short conversion she ended by saying, “We should go shopping together sometime soon.”
I’m a social shopper, a person who merely runs into stores to pick up needed items when alone, but considers shopping the biggest event of the month when I have company. “That sounds like fun!” I responded.
My friend answered, “Then let’s schedule it. If we don’t, it won’t happen.” We picked a date and noted it on our social calendars.
That evening I stopped at my daughter’s home. Niki was busy doing crafts she planned to enter in the fair. She said, “I always swear I’m not going to rush to do these things at the last minute, but it turns out each year that nothing gets done until the week before the fair.”
I nodded, fully agreeing with what she was saying while envying her ability to work under pressure. Her crafts were cute and clever.
Later that evening I phoned my other daughter, Tammie, complaining, “I don’t have much to enter at the fair this year. I wish I would have done the things that I’d planned.”
Each fall I take an oath, promising to spend the cold winter months doing crafts to enter at the fair. It never happens. The drive, desire and ideas that I had for making things during the fall evaporate away after the fair is over. I procrastinate, thinking, “There’s plenty of time left, yet.”
Tammie sternly responded, “In January and February, I asked if you were working on your fair entries, but I couldn’t get you interested in doing any.”
That was true. I remembered her asking, trying to goad me into action. Thinking hard, I tried to remember what happens each year to prevent me from doing what I had planned.
As a child, I loved reading Dell comic books. In the stories, Donald, Uncle Scrooge, Daffy Duck and Pork Pig occasionally had ‘bright ideas’ which the artist demonstrated by drawing huge, brightly shining light-bulbs over their heads. Suddenly, I had what I like to call “a giant light-bulb moment.”
The reason why I never follow through on my plans to do crafts during the winter suddenly became clear to me and I knew what I needed to do to change.
I blurted to Tammie, “I need to schedule specific craft ideas to be done at specific times!”
Tammie didn’t ‘get’ the illumination from my bright idea. She slowly drawled, “Well, how is that going to actually make you do them?”
Impatiently, I explained, “In years past, I just said I’d do crafts during the winter months, but didn’t have a plan for what they would specifically be and didn’t schedule a specific time to work on them. I need to write those things down in my calendar, just like I note clinic appointments!”
Freshly enthusiastic about changing my habit of making unscheduled plans, I’m seeing other ways to use this new insight. This year, when I write my Christmas cards, I’m going to suggest a time to get together with friends, then write the date on my calendar!
Although I have solid plans to do certain crafts in assigned time slots, the bottom line really is what Tammie had asked. Is scheduling them enough to actually make me do them? Only time will tell.