Tackling Back-Burnered Projects


I’ve noticed I don’t have the drive I once did for completing projects. Whether a craft, home-improvement, or writing project, forward motion often lags and procrastination wins. I seem to have no problem gathering supplies or information, but then distraction or laziness or lack of enthusiasm throws a monkey wrench into the actual implementation. And the more complicated the project, the further down the list it drops.

Initially, the supplies or notes are in plain view, but after passing over them and working around them for several weeks, I move them to a less conspicuous location, still visible, but just out of reach. Eventually, the project ends up in a cabinet, drawer, closet, or box. The ultimate death knell sounds if it disappears into the black hole that is…the attic.

When a  project disappears from my vision, it also slips from my mind and to-do list, and when you lose vision, nothing much happens beyond that point. It’s the same with self-improvement projects, those areas we realize need work, but also know are going to be complicated, revealing, and require time and effort.

Here are some ways to get back on track with a back-burnered project:

Have a plan with a deadline – Recently, I decided to take the upholstery off an antique chair we inherited. I’ve never liked the way the upholstery was attached to the chair, and the color doesn’t match our house. It took time and a sturdy pair of pliers to remove all the tacks and brads. Once I got the fabric off, I discovered the reason the upholstery was attached the way it was. The sides of the chair seat are rough and the seat itself isn’t even attached to the chair base. Now that I have the chair apart, I’m faced with more work and additional steps putting it back together in a way that doesn’t look like an oops. I formulated a plan of attack and a timeframe, complete with deadline. Unfortunately, I’ve already missed the original deadline—a dinner party that happened last weekend. Now, I have a new, no-excuses deadline and I’m spending time in the floor wrestling a renegade piece of fabric.

Sometimes, like this chair, we inherit attitudes or actions that don’t match our personality decor. We think or behave in ways we really don’t want to because that’s what was modeled for us or what we’ve absorbed from the world around us. It takes hard work, and a good pair of mental and emotional pliers, to pry those thoughts and behaviors from our frame. But the final product, covered with attitudes and actions that fit the person we want to be, becomes a welcomed accent to our lives.

Do what’s easiest first – When faced with multiple projects, there are theories about the most effective way to tackle them. Some say do the hardest first, but I’ve found I have a better chance of actually getting started if I take on the easiest task first. Once I’ve completed that, I seem to have more focus and energy for the next one on the list. Attacking a self-improvement project is the same. If weight loss is a goal (and that’s eternally on my list!), instead of implementing deprivation of all favorite foods, opt for deciding to omit one food a week and go from there. One food a week becomes one food a day becomes one item a meal. Making one wise decision at a time has a cumulative effect, and soon, making a conscious decision to omit certain things, foods or otherwise, becomes a habit that doesn’t require re-thinking each time.

Give your projects priority – One of the biggest challenges of getting to back-burnered items on your to-do list, is assigning them priority. So many things vie for our time and attention. It’s easy to rationalize a project on the back-burner doesn’t deserve your time, but along with failing to finish what you start comes a sense of guilt, and guilt, like worry and anxiety, is an energy-waster. Creating time for a project you’ve set aside means redeeming time from another area of your life. The most obvious areas from which to redeem time are leisure activities like social media and TV viewing. Time gleaned from these areas and applied to spiritual renewal and development enhances all areas of life.

Reward yourself – Before you begin pulling projects off the back burner, decide how you will reward yourself for completing those tasks. Make the reward something worth your effort and something you don’t already do on a regular basis. Then, be intentional about your tasks. Move forward, one step at a time, until they are finished, and enjoy the rewards of your accomplishments.

“Having started the ball rolling so enthusiastically, you should carry this project through to completion…Let your enthusiastic idea at the start be equaled by your realistic action now.” (2 Cor. 8:11 TLB)

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