by James Rudy Gray
When a person postpones doing or completing what needs to be done, he is procrastinating. Procrastination leads to missed opportunities, incomplete tasks, and even ruined relationships.
A procrastinator thinks more about avoiding something today than strategically planning to do something tomorrow. Tomorrow can be a concept comforting and hopeful to troubled souls, but for those who procrastinate, tomorrow is an enemy disguised as a friend.
Some observable symptoms of procrastination include: working rapidly at the last minute, not enjoying recreational activities, time-wasting behavior, feeling overwhelmed by responsibilities, the inability to reach important goals in life, daydreaming and wishing instead of doing, and talking without acting.
Procrastination can be a sign of passive-aggressive behavior and may also be a carry-over from childhood where a person felt the need to live his or her own life because of overly-controlling or authoritarian parents. Fear can be a cause of procrastination: the fear of success or failure. People who set unrealistic goals, standards, or expectations may often procrastinate.
How can we help people who have a pattern of procrastinating? One possible way is to help them develop a task-oriented rather than a time-oriented approach. Instead of a person thinking, "I need to work four hours tomorrow on the house," she could say, "Tomorrow I will wash two loads of clothes, vacuum the house, and do the dishes."
A big step in overcoming the tendency to procrastinate is to do the unpleasant tasks before the pleasant ones. Another suggestion is to avoid talking too much before acting. It is a good idea to set goals and sub-goals. Finally, doing something is better than doing nothing. Action usually helps reduce anxiety and leads to reducing the tendency to procrastinate.
There is one more major cause of procrastination: laziness. Why are some people lazy? It is a learned behavior? Have they been conditioned to be lazy? Were they pampered and spoiled as children? Are they simply unmotivated, depressed, apathetic, selfish, or not ambitious?
Laziness, no doubt, has many tributaries. However, it is something that is clearly seen as wrong in the Bible. A lazy person needs a new attitude and a new way of behaving. There is a four-step approach that can help most people with a tendency toward laziness, which usually leads to procrastination: prepare, organize, execute, and adjust. These four activities can lead a person away from procrastination and laziness and into a life of more productive and meaningful involvement.
Proverbs 6:6-11 is excellent counsel for procrastinators and those dealing with laziness. "Go the ant, O sluggard, Observe her ways and be wise, which having no chief, officer, or ruler, prepares her food in the summer and gathers her provision in the harvest. How long will you lie down, O sluggard? When will you arise from your sleep? A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest-Your poverty will come in like a vagabond and your need like an armed man."
Harvester ants are amazing creatures. They are organized and busy. They are workers. When something needs to be done, they get it done. They might be viewed by some as workaholics. But, when it's time to rest, they rest. They have a whole season devoted to hibernation. One of the insightful observations about these little ants is that when some predator has damaged their dome or destroyed some of their habitat, they do not give up, quit, complain, or even form a committee to study the problem. Instead, they get to work and usually within 24 hours they have repaired the damage.
When it comes to procrastination, it is better to get something done than nothing. Having a plan of action with measurable and reachable goals is also an important part of the process. In the final analysis, the sense of fulfillment that often accompanies the completion of a job will provide motivation to keep moving forward on other tasks.
James Rudy Gray is certified as a professional counselor by the National Board for Certified Counselors, and is a member of the American Association of Christian Counselors. He pastors Utica Baptist Church in Seneca, South Carolina.