Later. Tomorrow. Next week. These words are music to the mind of the procrastinator. The procrastinator intentionally and habitually puts off doing something that should be done. They are creative at finding reasons why something that ought to be done now is moved to a later time. Procrastination is one of the easiest vices to fall prey to.
While it seems to relieve the moment of the task that has to be accomplished, pushing it forward doesn’t make the task go away. And as long as the earth subsists, that tomorrow into which a task was pushed comes; the false relief that procrastinating the task brought earlier disappears and the task still requires attention. Procrastination is a time killer. It makes you misuse the time you have been given, while hoping for a time that has not been promised. If God mercifully grants you a tomorrow, procrastination pushes further the task that would have been done tomorrow into yet another day.
Procrastination is a No Good
If you look around your life, you may just find the fruit of procrastination littered everywhere. You pushed forward your laundry and now you have a mountain of clothes to wash and almost nothing to wear; your kitchen is packed with undone dishes; your room and environment are untidy. Why haven’t you completed that graduate program? You have postponed when to write your thesis; perhaps you dropped out of it altogether. Is procrastination not the reason why you haven’t read through your notes and covered your course syllabus? If only you didn’t procrastinate, you would have done your homework on time and not rush to submit a hurriedly copied work on Monday morning. If you didn’t procrastinate attending to your books, perhaps you wouldn’t need to cheat in order to pass that exam. Maybe you have a besetting sin that you have postponed when to repent of it. See how many years have passed by and you still struggle. If you hadn’t been postponing when to hit the gym or begin your workouts, perhaps you wouldn’t be overweight or have those health consequences to battle with. The morning hours when many go for workouts is the time when sleep is sweetest and the temptation to procrastinate is very strong. The wise man says of procrastinators in those moments: “As a door turns on its hinges, so a sluggard turns on his bed” (Proverbs 26:14). He will reap the fruit of laziness. You saw a neighbor and felt moved by the Spirit to witness to them about Jesus but you said you’d do so later. You never did and maybe they died without another opportunity to hear the gospel. Or you are a tailor and you always fail to deliver your work on time, could it be that you have consistently pushed forward when to cut that cloth and begin making that dress?
My all-time favourite scripture on the dangers of procrastination and laziness is Proverbs 24:30-34:
“I went past the field of the sluggard, past the vineyard of the man who lacks judgment; thorns had grown up everywhere, the ground was covered with weeds, and the stone wall was in ruins. I applied my heart to what I observed and learned a lesson from what I saw: A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest – and poverty will come on you like a bandit and scarcity like an armed man.”
Good Intentions are not Enough
“He said to another man, ‘Follow me.’
But the man replied, ‘Lord, first let me go and bury my father.’” – Luke 9:52
Good intentions are not enough. No work gets done just because anyone intended to do it. Perhaps you’ve heard the saying, “The road to hell is paved with good intentions.” How true. Jesus called a man to follow Him but he responded “Lord, first let me …” Nothing was ever heard of the man again. He didn’t outright refuse the call of Jesus, he procrastinated his following. This was the same call that Peter and the rest of the disciples responded to without procrastination and became what they became. While these men went away to bury the dead, see the plots of land for the estate project, try out their new machines, and say ‘Au revoir’ to family, Jesus didn’t wait. They all wanted to follow but they pushed forward their following. Procrastination robbed them of a glorious destiny.
Procrastination is Arrogance
Yes, it is. When you procrastinate, you proudly and arrogantly assume that you know tomorrow and can control what will happen there. Who told you that you will live to see the next minute, much less tomorrow? Do you know what tomorrow holds and if tomorrow’s circumstances would permit you to do the task you pushed to tomorrow? That’s the kind of attitude that James rebuked:
“Now listen, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.’ Why you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life?” – James 4: 13-14a
Proverbs 27:1 clearly warns that you “not boast about tomorrow, for you do not know what a day may bring forth.” Therefore, since you are not prescient, do what needs to be done today, today without procrastinating.
Even Jesus did not take such liberties. He said, “As long as it is day, we must do the work of him who sent me. Night is coming, when no one can work.” If Jesus cannot work when night comes, neither can you.
Redeem the Time
“Be very careful, then, how you live –not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil.” – Ephesians 5:15-16
The way to go is to make the most of every opportunity. Do what you have to do, now. The days are evil and tomorrow is not promised. When night comes, no man can work. Work while it is day. The Bible has several instructions on how to seize the moment:
“Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might, for in the grave, where you are going, there is neither working nor planning nor knowledge nor wisdom.” – Ecclesiastes 9:10
“Whoever watches the wind will not plant; whoever looks at the clouds will not reap.” Ecclesiastes 11:4
“You also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour you do not expect him.” Luke 12:40
If the message in the verses above can be summed up in a single statement, it is this: You don’t have control over time, make good use of the one given to you now.
How then can procrastination be overcome? Here are ten suggestions:
1. Pray. Paul said, “I can do everything through him who gives me strength” (Philippians 4:13). Pray for strength to faithfully and timely carry out your duties. When Jesus faced the daunting task of dying on the cross, he prayed until his sweat became like drops of blood and he succeeded. Imagine if he said, “Errmm, this task is harder than I thought. Let me go on a brief vacation to heaven before I return.” Pray.
2. Understand why you are procrastinating. If it is a lack of energy, it might be a metabolic problem that may require medical help. Whatever it is, find out. Also find out what you do when you procrastinate. Removing it might be key to victory.
3. Set realistic goals for yourself. Sometimes the sheer magnitude of a task can be overwhelming and a lack of faith in your own resources can cause you to postpone performing the task. Be realistic about what you can do in a given time. Don’t put yourself under undue pressure to do all things at once. It is helpful to prioritize what to do first. Beginning with the hardest task first when your energy is full is a great way to start.
4. Break your work into smaller tasks. This helps you to be less daunted by your responsibilities. Even though God is omnipotent, he didn’t create the world in one day. Take a cue from him.
5. Set timelines for yourself. Make a timetable for when you would love to deliver on your task and stick to it.
6. Avoid distractions. Your phone can be a major source of distraction. One way I have dealt with that in the past is to decide that I wouldn’t touch or respond to a beep or notification from my phone for ‘xyz’ minutes in which time I must have done ‘abc’. Or simply turn off your internet connectivity or the phone altogether.
7. Reward yourself for small victories. Yes, don’t wait for someone else, motivate yourself for further tasks by rewarding yourself for your successes. I didn’t say you should be a narcissist though.
8. Be accountable. Work with a partner to help you.
9. Utilize models. Is there anyone who has done what you want to do well? How did they do it? Copy what they did.
10. Just do it. The Jordan River didn’t part until the priests stepped into it. The widow’s oil didn’t start flowing until she started pouring it. The lepers didn’t get healed until they were on their way. The bread and fish didn’t get multiplied until the disciples started sharing them. The water didn’t turn into wine until the servants dished it out. The task wouldn’t get done until you start doing it.