Monday, February 11, 2013

Jumping the Gun? Or Procrastination?

It seems like whenever there's a big change coming up, actually known about well in advance, people respond somewhere along a continuum moving from one to the other of two extremes:
  • Ignore what is imminent and procrastinate, avoiding any type of preparation; or
  • Dive so completely into preparing for an upcoming future that the present is missed or neglected.
I tend to be one who loves to prepare and I dive right in, ready for the next thing and dreaming of the future without wrapping up well current projects or adequately delegating responsibilities. I can so easily check out of the present by over-anticipating the future.

My husband can, on the other hand, be the proverbial ostrich burying his head in the sand, ignoring upcoming change and focusing on the present task at hand... until or unless provoked into doing something... anything... focused on the future.

Preparing well for a furlough, home assignment and especially a more permanent change of assignment requires a moderation of those individual, natural tendencies. Preparation necessitates some amount of looking forward. Finishing well requires focusing on the present and not checking out of current ministries and responsibilities because of preparations to leave and entering into that transitional phase. 

Most of the literature that I've seen or heard of designed to help missionaries or other international workers prepare for home assignment includes lots of checklists: questions to ask yourself, steps to take, how to close up house in one place while setting up house from a distance elsewhere, things to do 1 year out... 6 months out... 3 months out... last month... and finally, the actual day of... departure. Some are formatted with bullet points to check off; others are more like a flow chart. Others might look more like an idea map with general domains and areas to think about.

In general, there are many tools out there to use. You need to use one that fits you and your personality. You can search on line, talk to your organization (Some organizations have a required procedure to follow. Ours doesn't.), or make up something that best fits your personality. I'm home schooling our 7th grader this year and organization is one of those areas that does not come naturally for her, so she is helping me design and plan as we prepare for our upcoming home assignment.

My husband likes lists. I like idea maps. He tends to think chronologically. I tend to think spatially - starting in one room of the house and working my way through the house as I prepare. He prefers focused, scheduled times when he knows his job is to work on getting things in order. I like to try and do a little bit each day as I multitask. Neither one of us likes to be rushing about at the last minute. We'd rather live a bit sparsely, having only the bare necessities the last few weeks rather than trying to close up house the day of our flight. 

We also tend to divide and conquer - we delegate tasks, divvying them up so that we can each do the ones that we are better at. Because Tim likes lists, paperwork - visas, passports, plane tickets, hotel reservations, vehicle rentals, budgeting and expenses, etc. all tend to fall under his domain. Sorting, decluttering, selling, giving away, arranging times with people, packing, storing? Those tend to be the things I enjoy and so I naturally will start working on them.

The key things? 

Come up with a plan, in advance, that fits you and your family, that includes a balance between preparing for the future while maintaining momentum in the present as well.

Initiate that plan.

Then follow it or modify it as necessary.

Do you find that you tend to lean towards one extreme or the other as you prepare for either large or small changes? Why do you think you act as you do?

How do you and your spouse respond and plan differently 
to upcoming change or big events in your lives? 

Other posts in this series of preparing to leave the field:


  1. That is funny, Richelle! My husband and I are the exact opposite of you guys. He's a slower decision maker than I am, but once he decides, he jumps into planning for the future. We do, however, divide tasks just as you describe at the end: he does paperwork, I do the packing and sorting!

    How far in the future is your home assignment?

    1. we are heading out in june - and looking at a probable change of assignment, so lots of things are way up in the air these days.

  2. We're just like you two in our responses, but opposite in the parts that we handle. My husband does most of the packing and sorting; I do the paperwork, applications, tickets, reservations, research....

    I'd like to see some of these lists and flowcharts and such. Any ideas of where I could look? We generally don't plan ahead well at all!