Why procrastinate? I put off writing this column for quite some time, so I think that question is appropriate for me. It probably is for you, too. A lot of us feel pressed for time. We can't seem to catch up. We don't feel we are accomplishing much. We are afraid to be alone with our "thoughts, because those thoughts inevitably turn to things we should be doing . Many of these problems are caused by procrastination, the habit of needlessly putting things off. Procrastination is such a subtle disease that we sometimes fail to recognize an attack of it. You're down with a case of procrastination if you: • Regret not having accomplished anything at the end of the day, even though there was nothing to stop you from completing a long list of chores. • Deliberately work slowly at something, planning to speed up later to finish it. • Delay putting a great idea into action, telling yourself you'll start tomorrow. • Find yourself running needless errands instead of getting down to the task at hand.
A serious problem
Some people are hindered by procrastination more than others, but everyone is guilty of it sometimes. Shrugging your shoulders and saying "That's the way I am" or trying to forget about it are not the solutions. Successful people overcome weaknesses. As Christians, that's what we were placed on earth to do — overcome (Revelation 2:7). Procrastination deprives us of satisfaction and happiness. No problem is solved by tossing it into a tray marked "pending" or "do it later." Years ago Edward Young wrote, "Procrastination is the thief of time," Procrastination is much more — it is the thief of our self-respect. It deprives us of the fullest realization of our ambitions and hopes. Procrastination is extremely damaging to the Christian. Do you find yourself putting off prayer and Bible study because you "don't have the time"? What about meditation and fasting? What does it matter, we think, if we don't write that letter today or telephone that ailing friend? It won't hurt to postpone that dental appointment or wait until later to read The Plain Truth or The Good News. Tomorrow is always another day, we tell ourselves. But that's exactly what the person said whose house burned the month after he let his insurance lapse.
What causes procrastination!
Procrastination may in some instances be attributed to illness. Good health and having a purpose in mind give you energy to tackle jobs and get them out of the way. Some chronic procrastinators had parents who did more for them than was necessary. Perhaps the parents picked up after their children or did the things they left undone. Thus the children never learned that there is a penalty for putting off duties. Someone else always did the work. We are all inclined to postpone doing things that are distasteful or difficult. We would rather putter around with unimportant matters so we have an excuse for not doing the unpleasant jobs. But none of us escape our quota of disagreeable tasks. Ignoring jobs that must be done won't make them fade away. Writers, composers, business executives and other people engaged in creative work sometimes claim they are waiting for "inspiration" to do something. As a writer I've found, however, that the best way to gain "inspiration" is to insert a blank sheet of paper into the typewriter. Other people shroud procrastination in a maze of red tape, protesting that they must first consider the problem from every angle and think of all the possibilities. On the whole, it is wiser to make prompt decisions than wait for something else to happen; To put off a decision while gathering pertinent information is wise, but be sure you are not just stalling. Great leaders deliberate with caution, but act boldly and decisively.
So how do we overcome procrastination? Begin in a small way. Be orderly in whatever you do. Write down what you want to achieve physically, mentally and spiritually. Then act! Your effort may help you acquire a new pattern of living as you learn to distinguish between the best and worst ways of doing things. Schedule your time. Estimate how long you need to perform each of your, tasks and number them in order of importance. Then wade through them. Be punctual. Immature people excuse themselves for being late by saying they have no sense of time. If that were true, though, they would be early as often as they are late. Fulfilling our responsibilities is not merely a matter of doing the things we should, but doing them when we should — whether we feel like it or not. Concentrate on the job at hand, but look ahead and plan what needs to be done next. At the end of the day you will be able to look back at a number of accomplishments. This will give you a sense of satisfaction and raise your self-esteem. It will also push you to do even greater things tomorrow. Once you make a decision, follow through and carry it out. There is no greater method for getting things done than to just start. Doing nothing results in discouragement. Don't defend or find excuses for procrastination. Winston Churchill said, "If you simply take up the attitude of defending it [failure to achieve], there will be no hope of improvement." By constructive thought and energetic application, we can eliminate procrastination from our lives. We can accomplish much more than we ever have before. Happiness and fuller, more enjoyable Christian lives will be our reward.