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 lose weight, how to invest your time wisely and productively.
Well, just for fun, I'd like to take the opposite tack. I'm going to tell you how to make zero progress this year. That's right, if you follow this advice, the year ahead will be a huge waste of time. Let's get started, shall we?
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 evening news on television or the Internet. You'll have enough bad news, doomsday reports, human tragedies, foul weather, 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 flashing 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? How about all the things you don't like about your spouse, your job, or your church. Hanging around negative people is another secret you won't want to forget this New Year. They spread worry like germs. If you plan all this just right, believe me, 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 plans with unbending and unrealistic expectations. Hey, why not? The whole year lies in front of you. Your date book is empty and ready to be filled with detailed plans. Of course, you'll need to ignore that little throwaway line in the book of James,
Look here, you who say, "Today or tomorrow we are going to a certain town and will stay there a year. We will do business there and make a profit." How do you know what your life will be like tomorrow? Your life is like the morning fog—it's here a little while, then it's gone. (James 4:13–14 NLT, emphasis added)
Forget this verse, and chisel your expectations in stone, convinced that things will turn out exactly like you plan.
Third, fix your attention on getting rich quick. This is a great one. With this mind-set, you'll fit right in with the flimflam that's gushing out of most self-help seminars and conferences. Make certain to get your ideas about money from the secular bookshelves, and definitely don't pay attention to men like Solomon, who wrote:
Don't wear yourself out trying to get rich.
Be wise enough to know when to quit.
In the blink of an eye wealth disappears,
for it will sprout wings
and fly away like an eagle. (Proverbs 23:4–5 NLT)
I mean, what does Solomon know about money and contentment and consequences . . . and wisdom?
Fourth (and this is a great one), compare yourself with others. Another surefire time-waster for this year. 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 hunks ought to help you men . . . and those gorgeous models plastered on the covers of checkout-counter magazines will do nicely for you ladies. The next twelve months will be a humdinger so long as you keep your gaze on the horizontal. A quick tip: have the Zoloft ready.
Fifth, lengthen your list of enemies. Playing the blame game will keep your wheels spinning all year more than any other activity. Your skill at this game should improve with age because the longer you live the more ammunition you will have. With a full arsenal of suspicion, paranoia, and resentment, you can waste endless evenings rehearsing your feelings of resentment as you stew over those family and friends who have made your life miserable.
Okay, so 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 make zero progress—it just happens. So, let's get started in the right direction.
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.
That's my plan!