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Three Tips to Defeating Procrastination
By Dan Vis
October 24, 2016
Comments: 6

One of the most important areas of discipleship is time management. We can't really give our life to God without learning to harness our time, for that's what life is--a span of time. And one of the biggest obstacles to time management is procrastination.

Most people deal with this sin to some extent, or as Paul put it, this temptation is "common to all" (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.). And it is a difficult one. But the same verse tells us God always provides "a way of escape". In terms of procrastination, it turns out there are at least 3 common causes, and a different way of escape for each:

1) Fear of Imperfection
One common cause of procrastination is fear. Writers, for example, who struggle with perfectionism, tend to put off projects because they don't like the initial steps that involve preliminary and imperfect work. They may be good editors, but not so good at writing first drafts. As a result, fear gets in the way of creativity.

The solution here, is to simply jump in and "brainstorm" some rough content. Suspend judgments about quality at first, knowing your natural inclinations will help you on the other side to polish and fine tune things later. Set yourself a goal to generate as much material as possible in a specific period of time. Make it fun. At some point, your editing tendencies will take over naturally and finish the job.

Be careful about the back side however. Some avoid starting early on projects because it means the extra time will allow endless tweaking and tinkering, and the hours invested can balloon. Rather, give yourself the same amount of time you would give it if you had waited to the last minute--just set your deadline ahead of when it's due. Then do your best to stick to your goal.

2) Indulgence in Gratification
In our tech saturated society, many of us have become addicted to our devices--and we find ourselves constantly checking our email, facebook, text messages, etc. Physiologically, these things trigger a chemical reaction in a part of the brain sometimes referred to as the reward center. We become subtly addicted to the stimuli, because of the small "high" they create--and they leave us eager for the next dose.

This is also a common cause of distraction. We start off on doing some research on the web, youtube, or twitter, something catches our eye, and before we know it our reward center is pumping chemicals into our brain as we indulge our curiosity and travel down some erratic path.

For many, only the looming threat of disaster related to missing some deadline is enough to jolt us back into productive activity. But it doesn't have to be that way. Recognize the addiction for what it is, and determine to not indulge. Shut down distractions by turning off your phone, closing your email, and other distractions for a specified period of time. Promise yourself a reward or impose a firm penalty for accomplishing/failing some objective. Rip yourself away from your diversion and throw yourself into some aspect of your project. The primary battle is just getting back on track, and moving again.

3) Overwhelmed by Indecision
A third cause of procrastination is indecision. Whether we are overwhelmed by the number of tasks we have to do, the size of them, or their complexity, not having a clear plan of action can result in paralysis. Knowing your top priority and scheduling the other tasks for other times can help get you back into focus.

Grab a blank piece of paper. In a very general way, start jotting down the things you need to do--as quickly as possible. Use broad brush strokes. Then, try to identify your top priority task for the next bit of time. If you are facing a single big project, list the various major components of the project, and identify the most pressing one from that list.

Don't let this process be a diversion, however. Allow no more than a couple minutes, 5 at most, to narrow down your choice. It should naturally float to the surface. Then circle it, and jump to that project immediately. Make it your goal to finish some aspect of that task before going back to your list. If other tasks come to mind, jot them down on the list, then get back to your project. Recognize your goal here is to simply be clear on your focus.

Ultimately, procrastination is a spiritual issue--and it can only be overcome by God's grace in the life. And there is certainly more to time management than these three simple tips. But being able to identify what drives your procrastination, and having a specific plan to escape it can help.

Comments

What about you? What causes you to procrastinate? What do you do to get going? Share a comment below:

Posted by Pamela Kendall on 04/09/17
I can relate to all of these in some way - no wonder I struggle with procrastination! I think I use number 2 (indulgence) to avoid the discomfort of indecision/having to make a decision and to avoid dealing with the little perfectionistic details. I sometimes feel that I notice all the little details that most people would never think of or at least not give a second thought. Perfectionism and indecision can be overwhelming and lead to indulgence as a distraction to ease the discomfort. Interesting this post was written on my birthday since this is one of my major issues! Conquering procrastination would be such a blessing. Luke 1:37For with God nothing shall be impossible. I'm really looking forward to the Time Management Challenge!
Posted by Dan Vis on 11/07/16
Great comment Linda! You are so right! Glad this post could be helpful to you.
Posted by Linda Gerace on 11/05/16

#2 is SO me. I work in our office and fo a lot of computer work. Sometimes I think, "I'll just check my email real quick," or "I'll just check real quick to see if so-and-so responded to my message on Facebook," and next thing I know 2 hours have passed because, just as you mentioned, something will catch my eye amd I'll start investigating that, then get distracted again and again. After a couple of hours I realize I never even completed what I had set out to do, and all this *wasted* time has passed.

Sometimes the distractions provide useful information, but are not necessary. So I have learned that I have to really discipline myself to not get carried away by every little distraction. I believe Satan doesn't care if we're busy doing good things or bad things, as long as he has us too busy to spend time with God. I'm working on that area of my life right now.

Posted by Dan Vis on 10/25/16

Hi Rhonda D Coleman. Looks like number three is right on the mark for you!

Sharp, thanks for your encouraging feedback!

Another one I didn't mention--but should have--is just plain old laziness. :)

Posted by Sharp on 10/24/16
Great insight, Satan is exposed, I love it! Thank You!
Posted by Rhonda D Coleman on 10/24/16
I seem to procrastinate when I have a lot going on and I feel overwhelmed because I don't know where to start. So, I make a list of "to dos" by order of importance/priority and not moving to the next item until the previous one has been completed. That, along with praying to God to order my steps, helps me.

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