This humorous quotation captures the essence of procrastination. A procrastinator’s powerlessness and compulsiveness are similar to the behavior patterns of an addict who is trying unsuccessfully to break an addiction. Chronic procrastinators know what they want to do but have difficulty translating their desires into action. Procrastinators often feel helpless. They know that procrastination will not allow them to avoid pain, but will only delay the inevitable. Nevertheless they put off doing what they know they should be doing. Someone has called procrastination the Devil’s chloroform, rendering a person unresponsive, unable to act.
Procrastination is caused by many factors, all of which result in negative outcomes.
• We might delay due to habit. We get into the routine of putting things off. The habit becomes a chain that binds us and limits our effectiveness. A Czech proverb says, “A habit is a shirt made of iron.” We might delay due to fear. We dread what might possibly lie ahead. We put off going to a doctor because we feel apprehensive about what he might tell us. We delay in going to the dentist because we don’t like the drill.
• We might delay due to anxiety. We don’t open a letter because we are worried about its contents. We put off confronting an offender because we are concerned about his or her response.
• We might delay due to dishonesty. We put off filing our income tax reports because we don’t want to report our income. We tell lies to delay in dealing with a problem.
• We might delay due to complacency. We know we need to correct a problem, such as a bad habit or a marriage difficulty, but we are content with doing nothing.
• We might delay due to lack of discipline. We engage in destructive behaviors such as overeating, gossiping, or expressing anger, but we lack the personal discipline to make changes in those behaviors.
I think I can, I think I could, I think I may, I think I should.
I think I might, I think I will, I think I better think more still. Susan Hambor*
Procrastination comes in many forms—neglecting to balance the checkbook, delaying maintenance on a car, postponing going to bed on time, putting off minor repairs around the house, delaying to mow the lawn, or prolonging the business of making amends. Even more seriously, some people put off repentance and seeking the salvation of their souls. They will suffer the consequences. Jesus told the story of a man who, when invited to follow Jesus, said, “‘Lord, let me first go and bury my father’” (Luke 9:59). Another said, “‘Lord, I will follow You, but let me first go and bid them farewell who are at my house’” (Luke 9:61). In Acts 24:25 when Felix heard Paul’s message of righteousness, temperance, and judgment, Felix put off acting on the message and responded, “‘Go away for now; when I have a convenient time I will call for you.’”
The solution to procrastination
If you have a tendency to procrastinate, don’t delay in doing something about it. The following suggestions will help you to get on the road of promptness.
1. Recognize procrastination as sin. “Therefore, to him who knows to do good and does not do it, to him it is sin” (James 4:17). For example, to him who knows he should get up and get to work on time, but prolongs his time in bed, to him it is sin. To him who knows he should not abuse his wife and children, but delays changing his ways, to him it is sin.
2. Trust God to help you. Keep in mind such verses as “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:13), and “Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding” (Proverbs 3:5). God is able to help you. F. B. Meyer said, “You never test the resources of God until you attempt the impossible.”
3. Take one step at a time. Matthew 19:26 assures us, “With God all things are possible.” Focus on one thing at a time. If you put off cleaning the house because it is too big of a job, start with one room. If you can’t fix everything that needs fixing around the house, fix one thing at a time. David Burns, M.D., advises that we take little steps for big feats.
4. Set a time to begin. Don’t delay. If you need to mow the lawn, do it. If you need to balance the books, do it. If you need to stop overeating, start today.
When faced with a task, you may be saying to yourself, “I’ll wait until I’m in the mood.” Let’s face it. We may never get in the mood. With God’s help, let’s just prime the pump and do what needs to be done.
* Source unknown.
David Henriksen, Associate Pastor
West Cannon Baptist Church