When you procrastinate about overcoming procrastination, you know you have a problem …
A lot of people procrastinate, know they do, know it’s not good for them, yet procrastinate about doing anything about it!
If that’s your behavior, you know you have a problem that you need to overcome.
The answer isn’t to swing to the opposite side of the pendulum and drown yourself in busyness; the real answer is to learn how to live a productive life. David Crawford noted the following about being productive:
George Whitefield [famed evangelist of the “Great Awakening”] made seven trips from England to the American colonies as he lived out his motto, “I would rather burn out than rust out.”
Scripture calls believers to be productive for the Lord, to produce fruit for the Kingdom. While the Lord certainly does not want His children to burn out, He doesn’t want them to rust out either. The disciplined life is achieved somewhere between rust out and burn out.
Overcoming procrastination is finding that place between rust out and burn out, where you are productive for the Kingdom of God. Make no mistake about it, procrastination can have severely negative effects on our lives, such as:
Hurting relationships. Relationships fail for lack of proper care and nurture. When we procrastinate in engaging with people as needed, we can harm our relationship with them.
Missed opportunities. Many of life’s most important opportunities come around only once; to miss them because of procrastination may result in stunting the quality of your life by missing important opportunities.
We become unproductive. Accomplishing anything in life takes effort. When we fail to put forth the necessary effort, our lives deteriorate proportionally.
Indulges our base desires. To fail to be responsible or productive in order to indulge in comforts, entertainments, or laziness is to feed our most base desires in favor of being the least or worst we can be.
Can be bad for your health. Research clearly shows that too much inactivity can be bad for your health, and sitting too much has been referred to as the “new cancer.” Procrastination that slows us down (or lays us down!) can directly impact our health negatively.
Can be sinful. Procrastinating about a matter of spiritual import can be sinful. James 4:17 states emphatically, “Remember, it is sin to know what you ought to do and then not do it.”
WHY DO WE PROCRASTINATE?
Procrastination is not an inborn trait, meaning a person is not a procrastinator by nature. If procrastination is so bad for us (and it is), then why do we do it?
The reasons are different for each person, but let me give you four primary reasons people are prone to procrastinate:
Irrational task aversion. Simply put, we “catastrophize” tasks by telling ourselves how hard, how difficult, how unpleasant a task may be, or telling ourselves over and over again just how much we don’t want to do it! Filling our minds with irrational thoughts about a task or action motivates us against action rather than encouraging ourselves to engage. Our thoughts create our emotions, and the combination of our thoughts and emotions create our behavior; thus, when our thoughts are irrational, they create negative emotions and a lack of action. Viola! You have procrastination. Some tasks we need to complete really are unpleasant, but by catastrophizing them, we make them so unattractive we procrastinate.
Fear. Fear is a very real and common cause for procrastination, especially for certain temperaments. For example, the person with a primarily Melancholy temperament does well in making decisions and taking on tasks in areas well known to them, but are very prone to procrastination when making decisions and taking on responsibilities in areas less known or unknown to them. When we don’t feel capable or confident, and fear we may fail, we tend to procrastinate.
Warped values. Sometimes what is important isn’t important to us, and what is important to us shouldn’t be as important. How we value people, work, responsibilities, and things directly affects the time and effort we’re willing to invest in them. The less we value someone or something, the more inclined we are to procrastinate about engaging.
Sloth. Plain, ordinary laziness — “I’d just rather not” — is still a common reason we procrastinate.
SO HOW DO WE OVERCOME PROCRASTINATION?
Again, since why we procrastinate varies per person, the specifics as to how to overcome procrastination may vary per person as well. But here are common keys to developing a more productive life:
Stop thinking, start doing! At least, stop thinking irrationally — stop “catastrophizing” things and start acting. Learning how to redirect your thinking to more rational thoughts will help you push past discomforts and engage. Many people have deeply habitualized their thinking into irrational patterns of thinking; a skilled Christian therapist can help you learn to overcome such negative habits and help you learn to think more rationally.
Get energized and empowered by the Holy Spirit. Make your struggle with procrastination a matter of prayer, taking it to the Lord and asking Him to energize and empower you to think clearly and soberly, to be courageous, to value people and things as He does, and embolden you to greater activity.
Make a firm, complete decision. You won’t act until you make a real decision to do so. You have to decide that being a procrastinator is not acceptable to you!
Remove barriers and excuses. Eliminate anything that has impeded your being active. For example, if you need to improve your fitness but you’ve used the excuse that you can’t afford a gym membership, then eliminate the financial barrier! You can talk with friends who exercise regularly for helping with exercise regimens you can do at home or outdoors, and you can go online and access a myriad number of websites that will teach you how you can get in shape without having to go to a gym. Remove the barriers and excuses you have used in the past to justify your previous inaction.
Schedule it. Commit yourself to real action by getting out your calendar and scheduling the action you need to take. Make a commitment to do what you need to do on a certain day, at a certain time. Commit!
Make yourself accountable. Recruit someone (family members, friends, co-workers, fellow church members, etc.) to hold you accountable. Explain to them your struggle with procrastination, tell them your plan for overcoming it, and ask them to help hold you accountable for fully executing your plan for overcoming your procrastination.
Richard Evans is noted as saying, “The tragedy of life is not that it ends so soon, but that we wait so long to begin it.” Procrastination robs us from that fullness of life Jesus said He came to provide for us. Isn’t it time to overcome your procrastination and fully engage in living the whole life God has for you?