Sunday, July 27, 2008

Dealing With Procrastination

Did you ever have an important task to do and kept avoiding it? Maybe it was a letter to be written, a phone call to be made or any of the multiple tasks that confront us, day by day. Or it might have been certain steps you needed to take in order to achieve a goal. However, whatever it was, you just kept putting it off till another time with seeming justifiable reasons and excuses, not realizing that procrastination had gotten a hold on you.

Procrastination is one of the commonest deceptions we allow into our lives, complete with its veils and fa├žades for us to hide behind. We procrastinate in many ways, for example, leaving a task undone up to the last minute, avoiding a task completely, doing insignificant tasks rather than what we should be doing, beginning a necessary task and quickly moving off to something else that sabotages our attention.

Often, when we put off major tasks we feel guilty and compensate for our actions by doing minor tasks that could easily wait for another time. This attitude somehow gives us a sense of usefulness, but is the battle won? This is a neat trick we do to ourselves to make us feel productive but the fact is that the main thing to be done still goes undone.

A medieval sage has said: “Defer not till the evening what the morning will accomplish.” And this wise admonishment still stands today, concerning anything from day to day chores to achieving fulfillment of your personal desires and goals.

Procrastination is a learned attitude: an organized delay tactic, and as such, we can learn to overcome it. When we find ourselves doing any of the above we need to be inquiring of ourselves as to the reason for our attitude.

Procrastination often works under the guise of caution or carefulness, yet it is the result of double mindedness and can become habitual. It is a defense mechanism, so strong and natural to us at times, that we cannot identify it for what it is. However, there are often deeper psychological reasons for habitually putting things off which can be fear, guilt, just plain indifference or other issues.

At James 1:8, the Scriptures say: “A double minded man is unstable in all his ways.” And when we examine procrastination, we see that it fits this Scripture for it is from a mind beset with too many conflicting issues at hand.

We see too, that procrastination is a type of rebellion and habitual procrastinators are persons plagued by inner conflicts, continually struggling with double sided opinions, usually over simple matters. One part of their minds says: “Go...” and another part says: “What if I go...then ...” and a litany of negative responses arise.

We all procrastinate at times. Yet, the important thing to observe is how habitual it is, how intense it is, and how we deal with it. Sometimes, we lag in our duties and chores, thinking they are too cumbersome, but thank goodness, when we discipline ourselves, often we do those tasks faster and better than we ever could have thought possible.

How can we overcome habitual procrastination? Here are some practical suggestions:

First, recognize the most important tasks at hand, then recognize your habitual inner self-talk about them. Did you ever notice that often, we actually speak our procrastination into manifestation by making statements like these: “I find it so hard to do this or that task.” “No matter how hard I try, I never can begin doing the things I want to do before twelve o’clock every day...” “I cannot seem to find the time to do this or that task...”

Make a list of things to be done with the most important ones first. A helpful idea is to set down dates and times by which they are to be done. And the classic idea of setting realistic goals stands forever.

When we correct our negative inner self-talk and spoken words, we would find that most of the battle is won. Remember that life and death are in the power of the tongue.

When dealing with procrastination, two vital practices are developing discipline and creating a sense of completion or closure. Therefore, plan your work and work your plan. If your task is a big one, break it down into workable portions and move through those portions, one at a time. Then discipline yourself to complete one task before going to another. It might be surprising to find how easy it is to get your tasks done when you work at them in small, organized steps.

Last, but not least, examine the situation to see if you need help and seek help if you need it. Too often, we try to do more than we really need to.

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