Are you one of those people who put off doing some tasks, saying, I’ll get around to doing it sometime? It’s called procrastination. Putting off what you should do today. Most of us procrastinate sometimes—there’s a Latin song (“Mañana” by Peggy Lee) that goes like this:
The window she is broken, and the rain is comin’ in,
If someone doesn’t fix it I’ll be soaking to my skin.
But if we wait a day or two the rain may go away,
And we don’t need a window on such a sunny day.
But I read an article online that said 20% of people chronically avoid difficult tasks and deliberately look for distractions. They don’t pay bills on time. They miss opportunities for buying tickets to concerts. They don’t use gift certificates. They file income tax returns late. They delay making an appointment with their dentist, or leave their Christmas shopping until Christmas Eve.
We may smile a bit about this, and not take it too seriously. As Mark Twain used to say, “Why put off until tomorrow what you can put off until the day after tomorrow.”
I like the fellow who said he had made up his mind that he was going to put an end to his procrastinating, but he just never got around to it. It seems he has a great deal of company. Procrastinators tell lies to themselves. Such as, I’ll feel more like doing this tomorrow or I work best under pressure.
But in fact they do not get the urge the next day or work best under pressure. In addition, they protect their sense of self by saying, This isn’t important. Another big lie procrastinators indulge is that time pressure makes them more creative. Unfortunately they do not turn out to be more creative; they only feel that way. They squander their resources.
If Tomorrow Never Comes
Procrastinators actively look for distractions, particularly ones that don’t take a lot of commitment on their part. Checking e-mail is almost perfect for this purpose. Rather than vacuum the house now, I’ll just take a few minutes to read my email. A few hours later, the vacuum cleaner still sits in the cupboard. They distract themselves as a way of regulating their emotions.
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- “Procrastination is the thief of time” said the English poet Edward Young, author of The Complaint: Night Thoughts
- “Never put off till tomorrow what you can do today” wrote Lord Chesterfield in a letter to his son.
You might be an impulsive person who can’t plan very well, or you say, There’s always tomorrow. I know—I have said this myself many times. But is it a good thing to do?
What happens? You run out of time to get things done because you think in the future—that mysterious fantasy world of possibilities—and you think that you’ll have more free time than you do now.
Hara Estroff Marano, writing in Psychology Today, once said, “The future is always ideal: The fridge is stocked, the weather clear, the train runs on schedule and meetings end on time. Today, well, stuff happens.”
That’s why I say tomorrow is the most dangerous word: I’ll tend to that task tomorrow.
Today Is a Precious Gift of God
It can and does have consequences, most of which are not healthy for us. When we constantly talk about ‘tomorrow’ we miss what matters most. Which is that God is present in this moment—today—in this instance I’m talking to you. We need to embrace the moment, and recognise that each moment we have today is a precious gift from Almighty God.
The greatest danger of procrastination is that sometimes when we wait too long to do something, by the time we get around to it, it’s too late. The most obvious example that comes to mind is telling—and showing—the people that we love that we love them. It may not come easily. Especially if there have been pain and difficulties in the relationship. But don’t wait until it’s too late. That is not good procrastination.
Psychiatrist Elisabeth Kübler-Ross wrote this in one of her books, “There are dreams of love, life and adventure in all of us. But we are also sadly filled with reasons why we shouldn’t try”. These reasons seem to protect us, but in truth they imprison us. They hold life at a distance. Life will be over sooner than we think. If we have bikes to ride and people to love, now is the time.
The Bible says in Proverbs 27:1, “Do not boast about tomorrow, for you do not know what a day may bring forth.” How true is that. God has given you and me this day to serve him and put him first. It says in Colossians 3:23, “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men”. If we put our hearts into our work, as this verse says to do, we will probably find it difficult to procrastinate too much.
Jesus never said life would be easy. There will be sacrifice and commitment. But there is tremendous reward when we do the things he calls us to do. Don’t ask, What do I feel like doing? Instead ask, What does God want me to do?
So instead of focusing on tomorrow, focus on today. We need to see God at work in every moment and join him in that work. What have you been putting off to tomorrow what should be done today?