Everyone procrastinates, at different times, in different ways, for different reasons. We’ve all had “pockets of procrastination” – we delay doing something that needs to be done.
I’ll never forget the afternoon I planned to take my mother to a huge company celebration where I was scheduled to sing “The Battle Hymn of the Republic.” After arriving at her home, a battle rose within me. She hadn’t even begun to get ready! She apologized profusely, but that didn’t change the fact that again she had lost a battle with her consuming enemy. Instead of having control of procrastination – procrastination had control of her.
Forty minutes later, we were finally leaving … then all of a sudden the phone rang. Immediately she turned back, extending her arm – “Wait!” I yelled. “Why are you answering the phone?” Her hand became frozen above the receiver … sheepishly, “Because it’s ringing.”
“But mom,” I calmly reasoned, “If we’d left on time, you wouldn’t be here to answer the phone.” She looked stunned. The phone kept ringing … yet she ever-so-slowly moved her hand away. “Well, no. I wouldn’t be. I didn’t think about that.”
Suddenly, she experienced a new way of looking at life – at least in regard to the phone. Just because it rings doesn’t mean you have to answer it. Just because you receive a text or email … you don’t have to reply immediately.
We all have our to-do lists. The battle to get it all done is fought against interruptions, impending deadlines and internal motivations. Our struggle with procrastination is not just about time – it can reveal a character flaw that needs correcting. I’ve noticed five main reasons that lead people to procrastinate: perfectionism, poor self-worth, fear, lack of goals and feeling overwhelmed.
5 Classic Procrastinators
Let me introduce you to my five friends who actually don’t want to procrastinate – yet they do. As you read about my friends, which one most describes you?
- Perfectionist Patty works hard, but she’s hardest on herself.
She thrives on performance-based acceptance: “I must perform perfectly or I won’t be accepted.” Patty procrastinates because she’s never satisfied with her performance. Instead, she needs to rely on God’s grace and strength. … “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:9).
- Poor Self-Worth Paul worries about what others think.
His feelings of inferiority cause him to be passive. He delays, assuming, “I can’t do it.” Paul procrastinates because he lacks God’s perspective of his value and can’t imagine what he’s capable of achieving. Paul needs to grasp that God created him and has already planned the work for him to do. …“We are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do” (Ephesians 2:10).
- Fear-Based Freddie is a worrier.
He avoids confrontation because he’s afraid of criticism. Freddie procrastinates because he believes his efforts will evoke a reaction and result in rejection. Freddie needs to turn to God and not worry about what others will do. … “Fear of man will prove to be a snare, but whoever trusts in the LORD is kept safe” (Proverbs 29:25).
- Lack-of-Goals Larry has no direction and can’t stay on course.
Larry delays working because he can’t see how his efforts could contribute to a meaningful goal. Larry needs to see how God uses his work to help meet needs. …“Our people must learn to devote themselves to doing what is good, in order to provide for urgent needs and not live unproductive lives” (Titus 3:14).
- Overwhelmed Olivia is overloaded and hasn’t learned how to prioritize her time and tasks.
She’s overcome by conflicting tasks, lack of focus, urgent demands and the needs of others. Olivia procrastinates because she feels responsible for more than she can handle, yet has no ability to manage her time. Olivia needs to remember …“There is a proper time and procedure for every matter” (Ecclesiastes 8:6).
What to Do about Procrastination
While the five types can help identify the internal motivations for procrastination, there are steps we can take to fight the battle and prevent the decay of delay.
- Acknowledge that procrastination is the assassination of motivation. “Despite their desires, the lazy will come to ruin, for their hands refuse to work” (Proverbs 21:25 NLT).
- Tell God that you need wisdom in using the time He has given you. “Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom” (Psalm 90:12).
- Keep track of everything you need to do, checking off each task when you complete it. “There will be a time for every activity” (Ecclesiastes 3:17).
- Refuse to “major on the minors.” Prioritize the five most important tasks you need to do each day – and major on the majors. “He who follows worthless pursuits will have plenty of poverty” (Proverbs 28:19 ESV).
- Estimate the time needed to complete each project. Add “pad” time for unexpected interruptions and delays. “Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Won’t you first sit down and estimate the cost to see if you have enough money to complete it?” (Luke 14:28).
- Don’t feel guilty when unforeseen circumstances arise, making it impossible to complete all your tasks in one day. “Do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded. You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised” (Hebrews 10:35-36).
- Consider the impact of your negative “self-talk.” Change your thoughts to reflect God’s truth about yourself. “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind” (Romans 12:2).
- Ask someone wise for help when you struggle. “The wise listen to advice” (Proverbs 12:15).
- Trust God with your life, believing He will direct you. “Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight” (Proverbs 3:5-6).
- Remember God’s promise to provide your true needs. “My God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:19).
As you fight the battle against procrastination, the Lord will give you His wisdom for making the most of your minutes – and the most of your life. As the Bible says, “… making the most of every opportunity” (Ephesians 5:16).
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