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Conquering Procrastination
By Dan Vis
May 21, 2017
Comments: 47

Note: Since we've been focusing this month on goal setting, projects, planning, and the like, it seemed appropriate to pull this old article out of the archives. Enjoy reviewing the suggestions!

I believe procrastination is a sin. If you define procrastination as putting something off that we should be doing now, then it certainly falls into this Bible definition:

James 4:17
Therefore to him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin.

And if it is a sin, we know at least two things from I Corinthians 10:13There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.:

First, procrastination is something we all struggle with. It's one of those things that are "common to man".

But second, when tempted to procrastinate, there's always a way to avoid it. God will, "with the temptation make a way to escape".

If you struggle with procrastination, having a few tricks in your back pocket to help get you started on something you are putting off, is important. Here's a few suggestions that may work for you:

The Swiss Cheese Technique

Sometimes we procrastinate because we have a big project and just a small window of time available. At first glance, it makes more sense to focus on some small, less important task, that can fit into your available slot. The problem is, you may never get that giant block of uninterrupted time you need. If you end up filling all your free snippets of time with trivial tasks, you will never get around to that important project with the looming deadline.

The solution is to turn that project into Swiss cheese. That is, start poking holes in it. Even if you just have 5 or 10 minutes, try to find some tiny task you can do to advance your project. One of those tasks might just be making a quick list of more tiny tasks required by the project. Another might be prioritizing those tasks. But there will be many more. Pick one or two and squeeze them into your slot. You will feel a sense of progress. Make enough holes, and finishing the project will come into view more quickly than you would expect.

The White Knuckle Approach

Another reason we put priority tasks off, is they are unpleasant. Our natural tendency is to gravitate toward those activities we like to do, and avoid those we don't. But priority tasks don't go away. They keep coming back until they are dealt with. And if we struggle with procrastination, these can get backlogged--until we find ourselves overwhelmed with a long list of imminent deadlines for unpleasant tasks. Who wants that kind of stress?

Try "white knuckling' it. That is, address the situation face on. Acknowledge what you are doing, and determine to make at least some progress on one of those tasks you have been avoiding. Tell yourself that you are surely able to endure it for at least 5 minutes. You are going to have to do these tasks eventually--so why not do at least a bit of one of them now? Tough it out. Once you get into it, you may just find it is not near as bad as you thought.

The Straw Man Solution

You may have heard something described as a "straw man" argument. Basically an inaccurate description of someone's position is presented, and then that imaginary position is discredited. You can use an imaginary "straw man" to help you overcome procrastination as well.

Let's say you are procrastinating because you are intimidated by the complexity or challenge of some project. You don't feel you are up to the task, so you hesitate to tackle it.

Take a moment to imagine someone else were doing that task. What steps would they take? What would a competent solution look like? Write out a quick list of the details involved in your "straw man" getting it done. Then take a look at the list: what on that list could you do to help your "straw man" out? Pick something you feel comfortable doing and start on that. Do this a few times, and the task will soon begin to seem more doable.

The Research Method

There's an old saying that goes "familiarity breeds contempt". That may be true in some situations, but the opposite is true when it comes to procrastination. We're actually more inclined to put something off if we don't know much about it, and more inclined to dive right in if it is something we are knowledgeable about and comfortable doing. In fact, experiments have shown that the more information you have on a subject, the more interested you become in it. So use this fact to your advantage.

If you suspect you may be struggling with a task because you lack information relevant to completing it, take a little time to do some research. Do a quick internet search. Drop by the library for a how-to book. Talk to someone who may know more about the subject. Try to gather a few bits of information, and make some notes. It may just jumpstart your engagement in the process.

Leading Triggers

Sometimes, all it takes to get moving down a track is to identify a trigger for a familiar process. If you find yourself facing an important project and having difficulty committing to it head on--you may be able to slide into it by committing to the trigger instead.

Suppose for example, setting an alarm isn't enough to get you up in the morning, because you keep snoozing it. Try putting your alarm across the room. Getting up out of bed to silence it, may be enough to trigger your wake up process. Once out of bed it's just as easy to continue on to the bathroom or wherever you need to go next. Getting out of bed is the leading task. You may not be fully committed to starting your day when the alarm goes off, but once you are across the room, it becomes easier to make that choice.

Have a big writing project you need to work on? Why not sharpen a pencil and put a blank sheet of paper in front of you on your desk? Been putting off some exercise program? Go grab your running shoes and start putting them on. Been wanting to read some book? Purchase a copy of it and place it on your nightstand. Learning to find and use these leading triggers may be enough to get you going.

Forward Thinking

One reason we procrastinate is shortsighted thinking. That is, when confronted with some task, our focus tends to be on what is involved in completing that task rather than what completing that task (or failing to complete it) will create. In other words, we are focused on the present rather than the future.

You can overcome this tendency by being intentional about shifting our focus to the future. Take a moment to reflect on what that task will accomplish. Why is it important? What will it make possible? How will your life be better. Thinking about those benefits may inspire you to get started!

The reverse works too. What will happen if you fail to complete that task? Or don't complete it on time? What is the potential impact of missing your target completion date? What other projects will be delayed or otherwise affected? How will it affect the people around you? Visualizing these negative consequences may also motivate you to get started.

The Reward

This is one of my favorites: the reward. You can try this approach anytime you are having a difficult time getting started on something important. Do a bit of negotiation with yourself. Agree to do something positive if and only if you are able to achieve some specified level of progress on your project.

Spend one hour doing some activity, writing so many pages, exercising so many minutes, whatever. In return, you will reward yourself with a guilt-free break to take a walk, spend a few moments on some hobby, read something you enjoy, call a friend you've been dying to catch up with. As long as you can come up with an appropriate (positive) reward, and discipline yourself to stick to the terms of your agreement--dwelling on the reward can be a powerful motivator to action.


The next time you find yourself tempted to procrastinate, try one of these strategies. See if you can't find the way of escape that works best for you!

There are two more things we know about procrastination, from I John 1:9If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness..

First, if we confess it as a sin, God is faithful and just "to forgive us our sin". That means, we don't have to let our past failures keep beating us down.

Second, God is willing to "cleanse us from all unrighteousness". In fact, ultimately, He is the only one who can truly empower us to overcome! After all, God alone can change the heart.


Comments

What about you? Do you struggle with procrastination? What solutions have you found to work for you? How important is it to defeat this sin?

Posted by Dan Vis on 05/25/18
Agreed Musa Sibisi! There is tremendous power in just thinking a bit about heaven. One of my favorite things to do! I've already made lot's of detailed plans for things I want to do in heaven. Can't wait... :)
Posted by Musa Sibisi on 05/24/18
Dan I like, reward factor. It has been useful. Also,this can help us stay focused. Thinking of heaven at last will empower us to live a good Christian life, but as you said Dan first we must recognize it as sin,if we don't we we won't see the need to change
Posted by Dan Vis on 05/11/18
Yes Kelly, the bigger issue is being able to choose which actions to do, and which to delegate or delete. But once we have our list, being able to get stuff done without dragging our feet is pretty important! :)
Posted by Kelly on 05/11/18
Thank you. Great article and very timely. I find one of my problems is that I do not have the time to finish all the projects I have and it just gets overwhelming from there. Will try these strategies immediately. God bless all!
Posted by Dan Vis on 04/26/18

Nice points Carole about anticipating the reward of completing a task, the importance of enjoying the process, and the burden of having things hang over your head. All true!

So happy this could be helpful Karin! Let us know how your "application" goes...

Posted by Karin on 04/25/18
I was just praying that God would help me know how to tackle procrastination. Then I saw your email about this article! It was a direct answer to prayer. I'm looking forward to applying these suggestions!
Posted by Carole Bliss on 04/24/18
Thankfully through the years, I finally have found when I tackle something, I feel the reward of the job is done, especially when I do it with care. I learned some time ago, to try and enjoy the process. It makes such a difference. Pray to have the the right attitude, to do the job well. God will help us with anything. If its worth doing, do it well. Having it hang over your head, is bothersome. Getting it done, its behind you.
Great message for us.
Thank-you,
Carole
Posted by Dan Vis on 04/23/18

I'm with you Deanna about the forward thinking part being the big motivator. :) And yes, it's great for getting other motivated to--casting a big vision. Esp when combined with clear information about the steps needed to get there...

Qing, love your two rules. :) Swiss cheese, and more swiss cheese.

And I appreciate your reminder Jackie that God is willing and able to give us success in this area! Great posts everyone...

Posted by Deanna Dekle on 04/23/18
I think the forward thinking it a value to me right now-perhaps a motivational thrust for helping others join in the efforts-also the gathering and informative communication of what the goals are, steps involved and what is the first one to take.
Posted by Qing Ling on 04/23/18
Jackie you summarised the strategies well. Those two things stood out to me too.
1) Poke holes at it/attack the project bit by bit.
2) persist with step 1.
Posted by Jacqueline on 04/23/18
Thank you for this post. I have a hard time with organization. .it makes sense to break it down and keep working on it. God will help work through it. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. God is so g[d to each of us.
Posted by John on 02/08/18
Thanks very much Pastor Dan, this is a powerful devotion!!! I love all the points on procrastination. Especially procrastination where it leads us to put off forsaking our evil ways, thinking that we still have time, not knowing that time once gone no coming back. May God help us not to entertain procrastination in our lives because is terrible sin.
Posted by Dan Vis on 01/26/18

It's been said, "procrastination is the thief of time". So true, isn't it Arlene Webb? Here's an interesting quote from the great little book Steps to Christ:

"Beware of procrastination. Do not put off the work of forsaking your sins and seeking purity of heart through Jesus. Here is where thousands upon thousands have erred to their eternal loss. I will not here dwell upon the shortness and uncertainty of life; but there is a terrible danger-a danger not sufficiently understood-in delaying to yield to the pleading voice of God's Holy Spirit, in choosing to live in sin; for such this delay really is" (Steps to Christ, p. 32).

Just so I don't forget, here's where I stumbled on to both these quotes. It's a great article on the subject: Confessions of a Procrastinator. It's worth the read...

Posted by Arlene Webb on 01/25/18
Thank you for your good thoughts on procrastination. I had never thought of it as sin! I liked the texts you put with it to identify it as sin. Swiss cheese sounds like a good approach to begin with. May God bless you as you seek to help us be more efficient and get much more accomplished in our daily schedule.
Posted by Dan Vis on 01/23/18

Thanks everyone for the feedback!

Loved how you described the way God works in our life Sheila.

So excited to hear about your progress Carole! I'm making some great progress on my goals too. Definitely feels awesome! :)

It is easy to get distracted and lose sight of the direction God communicates during mountain peaks like ROCKET. Hang in there!

The forward thinking one is a good one Qing. This weekend I shared a quote I found helpful in relation to Scripture memory, but it applies to just about anything: to lose your why is to lose your way...

Personally I like the reward method. Especially with the direction I've chose for this year... :)

Posted by Qing Ling on 01/23/18
Yup,definitely worth reposting this one.and good timing being the end of the first month of the year when resolution and determination can start to wane.
One of my biggest battles with procrastination used to be the daily temptation to stay in bed for just a few more minutes....thank God that is happening less and less lately. One of the tricks I discovered is to spend some time on the Forward Thinking method. I just need to have a big enough motivation to get up that will outweigh the tempting softness of my cosy bed and blankets...😏
Posted by Cristina Bastos on 01/23/18
Nice message, Pr. Dan! Very useful! I'm struggling with putting into practice the good plans I could do with the program Rocket 2018. Don't want to give up, but it is being hard to get the time needed when many other stuff comes in between. My goal, now, is to keep my eyes in Jesus, believing He can save me and help me to succeed.
Posted by Carole Bliss on 01/22/18
Nothing succeeds like success. In January, I start the closet cleaning and cabinet cleaning. Today, I completed the cabinets. I looked over them, and said, I will do a few at a time. Now, They are all done. What a neat feeling.
All your suggestions are so good. We stand in the way of progress, if we can enjoy the journey, we find the project isn't as hard as it looked before we got started, and asking our Lord for help in the process.
Blessings,   Carole
Posted by Sheila Schroeder on 01/22/18
Thanks so much for the great suggestions! I really appreciate how practical you are. I love how God invites us to move forward and then inspires and motivates us as we do. Taking steps today in His strength...
Posted by Dan Vis on 01/22/18

Glad you enjoyed today's article Valerie, Lynn! Always appreciate the feedback. :)

Interesting point about it being "presumption". Quite a thought!

Posted by David Grabe on 01/22/18

Greetings to all my FAST friends in Jesus's Holy, Mighty-& Overcoming procrastination Name!

I totally agree, Sister Valerie & Sister Lynn! It is presumption-and it is a sin..."But Thanks be to GOD which gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ! I Corinthians 15:57But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
Thank you Pastor Dan for this powerful, "eye opening"
devotional!
I was especially impressed by your statement, "One reason we procrastinate is shortsighted thinking. That is, when confronted with some task, our focus tends to be on what is involved in completing that task rather than what completing that task (or failing to complete it) will create. In other words, we are focused on the present rather than the future."
I like the "Swiss Cheese" & the "White Knuckle" approaches best, and will begin to implement them right away!
I see a terrific promise from God in this area of my life:
"I will instruct thee and teach thee in the way which thou shalt go: I will guide thee with Mine eye."
Psalms 32:8I will instruct thee and teach thee in the way which thou shalt go: I will guide thee with mine eye. And that will be @ every step of the way in all our "projects, tasks, plans, & purposes!
Amen!
"The LORD direct your hearts into the love of God" this day, and always! II Thessalonians 3:5And the Lord direct your hearts into the love of God, and into the patient waiting for Christ.

Posted by Lynn Badger on 01/22/18
I really never thought of it as a sin before, however, I can see that it truly is. I tend to be one who jumps in and gets it done but I do put things off sometimes. Thank you for today's devotional. I love God's eye opening appointments.
Posted by Valerie Wise Burrell on 01/22/18
Dan Vis,
This was such a good topic. I agree that procrastination is sin. I was impressed some years ago that to procrastinate is presumption because it assumes that I will have the time to do the task later. I appreciate the text from James which reinforces this point. Thank you.
Posted by Metron Ziga on 06/01/17
Wow, thank you very much for the tips. I will definitely try them out.
Posted by Dan Vis on 05/31/17
Thanks Penny! Glad this information was helpful. And good point, that sometimes we need to try a combination of approaches! :)
Posted by Penny Hetherington on 05/30/17
You have given some good advice there Dan on how to tackle procrastination. It is something I really struggle with daily. I also have a short attention span, so for instance, picking up a book and trying to finish it or completing a boring task is a battle. I have to 'white knuckle' the task, then 'reward' myself getting through it.
Posted by Dan Vis on 05/30/17

Qing, that's kind of the idea. Some people experience a block when overwhelmed by some huge responsibility. It may help to step out from under that for a second, and look at it from the outside--in terms of assessing what it would take to get it done, and identifying things we can help with.

Remember that these methods are just tricks to get us going on something. Many of us are fine once we get going. It's just taking the first couple steps that hard.

Congrats Ann! Sounds like you have been experiencing some great victories. Praise God... It is sweet to be not only on top of things but actually ahead a bit!

Posted by Ann Lavenburg on 05/30/17
I am getting better at not putting things off these past few weeks and one way was doing a little bit at a time, the Swiss cheese, and I never though to call it that. It works!! The piles of papers and things I needed to sort and discard have been diminishing. It is a great feeling. I also found that I needed to have a presentation finished at least a day before because I could not always count on having time to complete the needed preparation if I waited until the morning of the presentation. Something could come up at the last minute and then I would be in big trouble. But God is good and when I had unexpected presentation responsibilities then God gave me special grace to prepare in a few minutes. It does help to regard as a sin to procrastinate.
Posted by Qing Ling on 05/30/17

Diane - I procrastinated in reading this memo too ;) (was wanting to be in the 'right headspace' - but actually, it's good to 'just do it' sometimes and not put it off because of some made up excuse)

perfect corresponding verse, Pam!!! Psalms 119:60I made haste, and delayed not to keep thy commandments. - here's a reference connection tip: 60 seconds in a min, 60mins in an hour - don't waste time, delay not to keep His commandments! :)

Valerie, You hit the nail on the head about committing to prayer this area of sin in our lives. AMEN! As the memo says - I Corinthians 10:13There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it. - God will make a way to escape. But if we even refuse to admit our procrastination as sin, then we are refusing to give God a chance to save us from it!

Linda, to add to what Dan has already said, I would re-read James 4:17Therefore to him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin. and allow God to show You His plans for you. This is a really good memo relating to our lessons from the Life Focus System :)

Dan I actually have trouble understanding the Straw Man thing. Are you saying to pretend someone else is doing the job and I look at it as a 3rd person/external helper?

Posted by Dan Vis on 05/27/17
I don't know about the worst! I think it is a pretty common problem Lillian. A lot of us out there... :)
Posted by Lillian E. Cepeda on 05/26/17
I never thought I was a procrastinator; and lo and behold, I am the worst one.
I like all the suggestions you gave, Dan. I am choosing the Straw Man, and with much prayer, the Lord will help me to focus on the things that truly matters, God's business.
Posted by Dan Vis on 05/25/17
Great point about presumption, Valerie! Thank you for sharing that perspective. Very insightful.
Posted by Valerie Wise Burrell on 05/25/17
I need to clarify the statement about presumption. It should read that one is saying that he/she has the time to go back to the task but that is presumption. I have presumed that God will give me that time again. Dangerous thinking.
Posted by Valerie Wise Burrell on 05/25/17
Pastor Dan,
This was so needed. I was convicted about procrastination being a sin many years ago because it is essentially saying that we know that we have the time to come back to the particular task which is presumption. Yet! I procrastinate. I appreciate the Swiss Cheese method and will review the SC quote.
At any rate, I will fight the good fight to redeem the time for Christ. When I have committed to prayer the and asked God to remove the block to getting something done, He answers my prayer and I am able to complete it.   
Posted by Dan Vis on 05/25/17

Hi everyone, glad so many found this article helpful. :)

Rebecca, there's not a way currently to stop and start your review at various times through the day. It is unlikely I will be able to implement that reason for technical reasons. You can however, set a cap on the number of verses you see each time to 30 or 50 (it's in the engine settings). You can then review it more than once per day--which will be needed to get through all your verses if you have a bunch. But I'd first start with trying to carve out a regular block of time for consistency sake, and as Fiona suggested, work through your verses quickly.

I like your quote Stella Tigere about procrastination being the thief of time. Very good...

Pam, see my note above about not being able to pause the engine. I like the ISV for Psalms 119:60I made haste, and delayed not to keep thy commandments..

Linda, rather than focusing on the question you asked, I would recommend focusing on experimenting with some of the ideas above to see if you can't do better. I think we all have room to improve! :)

Here's a quote I stumbled on to from Steps to Christ which captures how serious procrastination is to our spiritual life: "Beware of procrastination ... There is a terrible danger--a danger not sufficiently understood--in delaying to yield to the pleading voice of God's Holy Spirit, in choosing to live in sin; for such this delay really is" (Steps to Christ, p. 32).

The more we can learn to respond to the Holy Spirit's every prompting, the better!

Posted by Linda Griffin on 05/24/17
I have ADHD. And of course I procrastinate all the time. I
have medication which I have been taking but I can't tell
much difference. Is it still a sin for me?
Posted by Diane Castanon on 05/24/17
This topic of procrastination reminds me of the bible verse, Proverbs 13:4The soul of the sluggard desireth, and hath nothing: but the soul of the diligent shall be made fat.. I desired to read this Monday Memo, but put it off for other readings and projects... I should have opened it and read it on Monday...
Thank you!
Posted by Carole Bliss on 05/23/17

Wonderful message.
I have found when I take small areas, and concentrate on working on them,
I learn to enjoy the journey, and then I am more willing to take another
section, later, or the next day, and do the same. Not look at the whole, its too
much, small amounts at a time.

Thank-you,
Carole

Posted by Fiona van Wyk on 05/23/17
Joyce, Wendelina, Robin, Deanna - It is true as you all have said, that we all struggle with the problem of procrastination, and it is interesting that Dan reminds us that it is a sin. This is a solemn thought ...
Stella Tigere - I liked too, the thought you mention, that we should be good stewards of time. I have found it helpful, to do one of the suggestions Dan gives, to make small inroads into big jobs. And the many small achievements means the job gets done eventually. What seemed like a mountain became attainable. :-)
Pam - thank you for your help with Rebecca's question. And that verse is good too! How fitting!
If one has about 50 verses in one's review, with a bit of practice, the review should not take that long. If the number is too large - say 100 - one is put off from doing the review because of the time factor, as you have said. Keep it smaller, and make it snappy. I have found this helpful for myself. Then, if I DO have some spare moments, it is fun to do some additional drills with references, or certain books - such as the verses of I and II Peter, which are what I am learning at present. I am sure Dan will offer some more suggestions too, Stella. You can choose the number of verses in your Daily Review under the Memory Engine - Review List - Settings. Perhaps you are aware of this feature already...
Posted by Pamela Kendall on 05/22/17

Here is a procrastination verse (or rather an anti-procrastination verse)!

"I made haste, and delayed not to keep thy commandments." Psalms 119:60I made haste, and delayed not to keep thy commandments.

The International Standard Version even includes the word "procrastinate" in this verse:

I hurried and did not procrastinate to keep your commands. Psalms 119:60I made haste, and delayed not to keep thy commandments. (ISV)

Posted by Pamela Kendall on 05/22/17

Rebecca If you happen to have a PC computer you can get SwordScipt a free scripture memory review program. So long as you complete all your memory verses in one calendar day you can come back to continue your review any time during the day as often as you need to. I try to do my review at breakfast, but if I don't have time to finish before work I can finish in the evening after work without having to start over.

Dan I would love it if the engine could somehow let you "pause" your review and resume later without having to start over if you don't have time to finish it in one sitting. I really love the portability of the engine and the fact that I can do it on my phone when walking for exercise, but would like to have the option to pause the review if needed and restart where I left off and still have it "count."

Stella Tigere I love the saying you posted "Procrastination is the thief of time." I definitely have trouble with procrastination. Thanks for all the good pointers and "ways of escape" you mentioned Dan !

Posted by Deanna Dekle on 05/22/17
Great insights and suggestions!
Posted by Stella Tigere on 05/22/17
Thank you for this memo and these wonderful practical ideas...l had never thought of it as a sin but now see clearly how sinful procrastination is. As the saying goes "procrastination is the thief of time" and we accountable to God how we use our time. May God help to a good steward of time. Looking forward to learning more and will surely implement so of the ideas above.   
Posted by Robin David Richard on 05/22/17
I do struggle but by God's grace I have been improving. I'm thankful that I'm taking more initiative and action because I do think it's highly important to stay on top of things as it assists in living an orderly and simplified life. Thank you for your memos and I look forward to gaining some additional insight and assistance with this course.
God bless
Posted by Rebecca on 05/22/17
This is a good topic. I'm adding the verses at the beginning to my verse pack. I struggle with unpleasant tasks, and putting things off because they take too much time. Those are presently the biggest challenges for me. Speaking of things that take too much time, is there a way to break up the verse review into sections, that could be completed at different times? As more and more verses are added, it becomes more difficult to fit the review into a few minutes. And sometimes all I have for review time is a few minutes at a time. If I don't go through all the verses, then when I come back to it it will start over, not just give me the ones I didn't review yet. It would be helpful for me if I can break up the review into several smaller portions, that can be fit into small breaks during the day. This would help me in the future not to procrastinate the review. If it's not possible, I'll start trying to use the Bible, rather than engine, and just go through portions of the Bible doing all the verses I know in that portion. It's probably good to review that way also at times.   
Posted by Wendelina P Deligero on 05/21/17

Amen ! FAST has given me a lot if thoughts that I just deal lightly. Thank you so much for reminding us that procrastination is indeed.... a sin.

May God impower me to overcome this.

Posted by Joyce Augustinis on 05/21/17
Very good advise. So many times I am just not comfortable doing a project and so it goes undone. I need to ask for God's help in beginning to white knuckle projects that need to be done rather than letting them fall by the wayside.

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