Nine Practical Pointers for Plodders

I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 3:14)

Today is going to be a challenge.

You will not make perfect plans. You will not work your plans perfectly. You’ll find a bog of ambiguity that you’ll need to step through carefully. There will be detours and delays. There will be equipment failures. You will spin your wheels. There will be unexpected phone calls and undesired emails. Social media will keep poking you for attention. Your indwelling sin and others’ indwelling sin will throw you curveballs. There will be some swings and misses. Your creativity won’t flow like you want it to when you want it to. And when you actually get to the project that you’ve scheduled time for at the time you scheduled it for, you won’t feel like doing it.

So what will you do when faced with these challenges? Plod on.

“The key to progress is a small portion every day, not binging.”

Purpose to be a plodder. A plodder keeps moving. A plodder perseveres. A plodder presses on. A plodder knows the disappointment of unrealized ideals, feels the fear of failure and exposed deficiencies, and the ambiguity of too many demands, options, and tasks. But a plodder isn’t immobilized by them. He or she presses on in the faith that God will supply the needed strength (1 Peter 4:11), wisdom (James 1:5), and direction (Proverbs 3:6).

So with that in mind, here are some practical pointers for making plodding progress:

1. Put a routine in place.

What is it that you want to make progress in? Bible reading? Book reading? Maintaining your budget? Composing music? Practicing hospitality? Keeping the laundry at bay? Writing a book or a blog? The key to progress is a small portion every day, not binging. Choose one thing to make progress on and set a reasonable, sustainable routine in place.

2. Don’t trust resolve euphoria.

Resolve euphoria is what you feel when you resolve to do something. You know, “it’s going to be different this time!” Well, that euphoria is going to fade quickly just like every other time. So harness its optimistic energy to get moving, but don’t trust the unrealistic goals you feel like setting. Let it push you into plodding a little at a time.

3. Don’t trust your inner Eeyore.

Remember Eeyore from Winnie the Pooh, the eternally pessimist donkey? Well, you have one inside you. It says, “It won’t be different this time. It’s not going to work. It never works. Why bother?” Plodders learn to ignore Eeyore.

4. A tip for building momentum.

One way to push past your inner Eeyore and actually build some momentum is choosing to do something you don’t want to do. It’s counter-intuitive, but accomplishing something you’d rather avoid has remarkable power to encourage you to get other things done. It reminds you that you’re not a slave to your preferences or moods.

5. Cultivate tenacity.

Don’t think of tenacity so much as intensity as determination. Tenacity is unrelenting resolve. Tenacious people get tired, discouraged, wonder if it’s worth it, and don’t feel like fulfilling their resolve. What makes them tenacious is that they don’t relent. Be a tenacious plodder. Be steadfast and immovable in the work God has called you to (1 Corinthians 15:58). Doggedly keep moving.

6. Learn something.

The Bible is clear that we should “press on” (Philippians 3:14) and make the most of our time (Ephesians 5:16). But it doesn’t give us details on how to do this. God intends for us to “understand what the will of the Lord is” through learning (Ephesians 5:17). This usually means trial and error.

“Remember, a lot of ground is covered over time by an accumulation of small steps.”

Experiment. Don’t be afraid that a routine or system you try is going to fail. That’s how you learn. Learn from your failures, and learn from others’ failures and successes by reading. DG alum and long-time friend, Matt Perman, just wrote a very helpful book, What’s Best Next, which applies the gospel to getting things done. I know no one who has thought more about these things. Learn from him.

7. Less than ideal is still progress.

We all have ideals in our heads about what accomplishment looks like. But don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good. Remember, only memorizing five verses this month rather than ten, or only reading 15 minutes today rather than 30 minutes is still a win, not a loss. It’s still progress. Make plodding progress and gradually seek to increase your capacity.

8. Do less.

You only have so much time. As a plodder, you have to be choosy about what you do. God has called you to a few things (Ephesians 2:10), demanding as they may be. Say no to some entertaining or demanding superfluous things and make room for making some progress on important things.

9. Just start.

Okay, enough talking. Just get going on something. Don’t be paralyzed by uncertainty. Let the process teach you.

Today is going to be a challenge. You may only be able to make a few small steps. But remember, a lot of ground is covered over time by an accumulation of small steps. Purpose to be a plodder and “press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:14).