Would you like to take a quiz to see if you’re a procrastinator or not (if you thought, Sure!, you’re not. If you thought, Can we do it later? You are one.)?
Do you get resentful when reminded of tasks left undone?
Do you sometimes delay a task so long you become embarrassed to actually do it?
Do you distract yourself spending time on non-essentials while letting important things sit on the shelf?
Do you have a difficult time determining what to do first?
Do you agree to do a task and then regret agreeing to it?
Have you ever put off signing your kids up for something and then they missed out?
Do you ever think, “If I wait long enough, the task will not need to be done by me”?
Do you find yourself making excuses for work left unfinished?
If your answers were yes to some of those questions, I don’t have to tell you about the stress level that comes with putting things off. It rises your blood pressure and erodes your level of joy.
There is a level of enjoyment in getting things done right and timely, so putting things off takes joy away.
Putting things off also gives you a chronic sense of guilt. It eats away at one’s self esteem and it causes friction in relationships.
Co-lead singer of the Beatles John Lennon, in one of his more lucid statements, said, Life is what happens while we’re busy making other plans.
Here are five steps I’ve taken to suffocate the procrastination out of my life.
(1) Stop making excuses.
Making excuses easily leads to lying. We exaggerate or make up a story on why we didn’t get it done, why we were late to the meeting, why we couldn’t respond to the email, and so on.
Ben Franklin once said, People who are good at making excuses aren’t good at anything else.
People who keep putting things off that need to be done are great at rationalizing. They rationalize (they ration, lies) This probably flies around the work place more than anywhere else.
Someone comes to work late again and they say, Traffic was bad. Alarm didn’t go off. Sitter was late. Starbucks was slow. I thought it was Saturday. Pick your excuse, whether that’s the real reason or not.
Teachers hear it. Parents hear it. Bosses hear it. Customers hear it.
Why wasn’t the work done on time? Well, I’ve got an excuse for that.
If you want to stop procrastinating and start living, you’ve got to stop making excuses.
Whenever you feel defensive about something, or you feel any type of rationalization rising up in you to protect your pride, stop, call it what it is and say, You know what, here’s the truth. And I’m sorry. And I’m thankful you’re holding me to a higher standard.
It’s okay to say, I was unorganized. I chose to do something else instead. I was lazy. I forgot. I chose Netflix instead. It’s okay to admit that when it’s the case because as Christians we serve God, not people.
Work willingly at whatever you do, as though you were working for the Lord rather than for people. (Colossians 3:23)
(2) Face your fears.
Have you ever asked yourself the question, What would I do if I wasn’t afraid?
My wife Whitney put this truth on our bathroom mirror months ago in her beautiful hand-writing,
For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline. (2 Timothy 1:7)
From the day we are born God instills in us with two automatic fear responses: the fear of falling and the fear of loud noises. As we grow up we learn healthy fears of fires and strangers and sharks and Oakland Raiders fans.
But, God has not given us a spirit of fear. We are not meant to be frozen by fear.
Procrastination reveals two kinds of fear in us.
The fear of failing.
The fear of not measuring up or feeling rejected or not doing a good enough job. It keeps a person stuck.
And strangely, there’s,
The fear of succeeding.
If I do this well, they might ask me to do it again, and then I’ll have to maintain this level of excellence, and they’ll ask me to do more and more.
It’s easier to stay in that mode of, Someday I hope to…. Someday I will..…
It’s more difficult to bravely take action.
(3) Establish a plan.
Get a game plan. Map out initial steps to take. Start with the end goal in mind and work backwards. Invite trusted people in to help.
I’ve got steps all over my life. I’ve got daily tasks that I make at night of things I need to do the next day and I check them off as they’re completed. I’ve got lists for yearly goals and I’ve got steps under those to get to those goals.
YOU CAN get on a budget and put that plan together to keep it.
YOU CAN finally get all of those family pictures printed and organized.
YOU CAN get the junk out of your home. Go through all the clothes and the toys and the things unused and give it all away. Get that clutter out. Simplify so you can more easily focus on the goals you have.
YOU CAN start leaving home 30 minutes earlier to get to work to get to school to get to the airport or get to church – so you’re there on time and if early, you can pray over your work, your school, your travels, your church.
YOU CAN sit down and think about what needs to be delegated in your life to others who are gifted in areas you’re not.
A wise person thinks ahead; a fool doesn’t. (Proverbs 13:16)
Put a plan together on paper. Just one single step toward your goal will start to bring relief and joy, because procrastination is a huge joy-sucker.
(4) Get disciplined.
Our culture says that discipline is a joy-sucker but it’s actually what brings more joy into your life because it fights procrastination. It fights fear. It fights laziness.
When you set a plan, there will be set backs, hurdles, disappointments, failure. There will be temptation to do something else, anything else, than the goals you have.
You’ve got to stay disciplined (focused).
Discipline is the guard rails on that adventurous road you want to drive on. Discipline is that fence in the large backyard you want your kids to run freely in. You need guardrails to protect you, kids need fences to protect them from wandering.
If I don’t have discipline and accountability, I will veer toward the unhealthy habits in my personality and I will drive everyone around me crazy. I won’t be the best version of myself.
So let’s not get tired of doing what is good. At just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t give up. (Galatians 6:9)
Stop making excuses, face your fears, establish a plan – invite someone in on it – get disciplined – invite someone to hold you to your responsibilities and goals.
(5) Start changing today.
In the Exodus saga, God’s people are enslaved by the Egyptians for 400 years. He hears the prayers of the Israelites and rises up Moses to go to Pharaoh and say, Let God’s people go, and Pharaoh refuses (because the 1-2 million Israelites are his free labor work force).
That’s when God gives Moses some powerful bargaining chips known as the 10 Plagues to let Pharaoh know he wasn’t the one in charge, but that God was/is. The Nile River goes from water to blood, killing all the fish. The livestock outside die. Locusts fill the sky. Flies all over. Boils on the people. Each plague Pharaoh refused to give up control.
A memorable plague was frogs all over the ground. Everywhere you looked, there was an amphibian. Here a frog, there a frog, everywhere a frog, frog. They came up out of the Nile River. Kermits everywhere is what gets Pharaoh’s attention.
Then Pharaoh summoned Moses and Aaron and begged, “Plead with the Lord to take the frogs away from me and my people. I will let your people go, so they can offer sacrifices to the Lord.” (Exodus 8:8)
“You set the time!” Moses replied. “Tell me when you want me to pray for you, your officials, and your people. Then you and your houses will be rid of the frogs. They will remain only in the Nile River.” (Exodus 8:9)
This is how Pharaoh responds:
“Do it tomorrow,” Pharaoh said. (Exodus 8:10)
Do it tomorrow?
Pharaoh can’t even back his chariot out of the garage without running over hundreds of frogs. Every Egyptian household has a wife on top of a dresser screaming at their husbands to do something.
It’s very stressful on the entire nation of Egypt and Pharaoh says that something should be done – tomorrow?
Start changing today. Not someday.
How many of my thoughts and how much time has been wasted in someday?
Someday I’ll ask her out.
Someday I’ll read that book.
Someday I’ll take my health seriously.
Someday I’ll get help on my addictive habit.
Someday I’ll start that non-profit.
Someday I’ll have my neighbors over for dinner.
Someday I’ll balance my schedule so I can invest more into my family.
Someday I’ll get on a budget and stick to it for a better future.
Someday I’ll get serious about God.
Someday I’ll invite that person to church with me.
Someday I’ll forgive that person.
Someday I’ll confess my struggles to a loved one.
There is something all of us here have that we have been putting off that God has been inviting us to step up and take care of.
Don’t be like Pharaoh. Don’t settle for one more night with the frogs.
Thanks for reading. You are loved.