With the dawning of a new year comes a deluge of resolutions, reminders, and exhortations. They all follow similar how-to themes—how to increase your efficiency, how to make every moment count, how to invest your time wisely and productively.
Well, just for some tongue-in-cheek fun, I’d like to take the opposite tack. I’m going to tell you how to waste your time. That’s right, if you follow this advice, you will make absolutely no progress this year. Guaranteed!
First, worry a lot. Start worrying earlier in the morning and intensify your anxiety energy as the day passes. Short on a supply of things to worry about? Check the newspaper, television, or Internet. You’ll have enough bad news, doomsday reports, human tragedies, and late-breaking calamities to keep your heart and mind churning all through the night.
Something I have found helpful in my own worry world is to do a lot of reflecting on my failures and mistakes. If you’re a parent, think long and hard about what you should or could have done for your children. That will give guilt the green light it’s been waiting for. To add a touch of variety, you might also call to mind some things you should not have done. Regret fuels worry in many creative ways.
Do you need a few other categories to camp on? The things you don’t like about your marriage or your job. The possibility of a leaky roof, car trouble, and aging. Hanging around negative people is another secret you won’t want to forget this new year. If you plan all this right, you’ll be loaded with a full pack of worries long before February comes. Start now! Those potential ulcers need fresh acid.
Second, make hard-and-fast predictions. Why not? A whole new year is in front of you. Your date book is empty and ready to fill with detailed plans. Of course, you’ll need to ignore that little throwaway line in the fourth chapter of James:
Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, and spend a year there and engage in business and make a profit.” Yet you do not know what your life will be like tomorrow. (13-14 NASB, emphasis added)
Forget this verse, and chisel your expectations in stone, convinced that things will turn out just like you plan.
Third, fix your attention on getting rich. With this mindset, you’ll fit right in with most of the hype that’s pouring out of entrepreneurial seminars and upbeat sales meetings. Make certain to get your ideas about money from the secular bookshelves, and definitely don’t pay attention to men like Solomon, who wrote:
Do not weary yourself to gain wealth,
Cease from your consideration of it.
When you set your eyes on it, it is gone.
For wealth certainly makes itself wings
Like an eagle that flies toward the heavens. (Proverbs 23:4–5)
I mean, what does Solomon know about money and contentment and consequences?
Fourth, compare yourself with others. Here’s another surefire time-waster. Not only will you ricochet between the extremes of arrogance and discouragement, you will spend another year not knowing who you are.
If external beauty happens to be your thing, comparing yourself to the latest Hollywood hulks ought to help you men...and those gorgeous models they plaster on the covers of Vogue will do nicely for you women. The next 12 months will be a humdinger so long as you keep your gaze on the horizontal. A quick tip—have the Valium ready.
Fifth, lengthen your list of enemies. Playing the Blame Game will keep your wheels spinning more than any other activity. Your skill at this game should improve with age because the longer you live the more ammunition you have. With a full arsenal of suspicion, paranoia, and resentment, you can waste endless evenings rehearsing your feelings of hate as you stew over those folks who have made your life miserable.
There you have it, five proven time-wasters. Put these suggestions into motion, and your new year could set records in wasting valuable time.
But on the other hand, who wants to do that? No one aims to run in circles—it just happens. So, let’s get serious. Beware of the time-wasters! Instead, pray more than worry. Be flexible. Give more. Be content with the way God made you. And let the oil of forgiveness loosen your grip on those grudges. In other words, make this year your most productive ever.
Adapted from Charles R. Swindoll, The Finishing Touch: Becoming God’s Masterpiece (Dallas, Tex.: Word, 1994), 14–15. Copyright © 1994 by Charles R. Swindoll, Inc. All rights reserved.