10 A little sleep, a little slumber,
a little folding of the hands to rest—
11 and poverty will come on you like a thief
and scarcity like an armed man.
Proverbs 6:10-11 (NIV)
Procrastination is seductive because it convinces me that the required effort is too much to expend AND that this moment will come again. Time seems to have a non-uniqueness – this moment is like all of the rest that I will have in the future… but (without stating the obvious) each moment is actually different. It differs by occurrence. It is different because I am different between the two points. The context has changed and so the significance of the opportunity changes. It is different because God has made it so. Each day is an effort in creation. When I procrastinate, I effectively communicate ingratitude for the effort. It is different because I have one less period between moments to enjoy the benefit and blessing of the action that requires my attention.
Procrastination is also seductive because it presents a controllable alternative to dealing with the possibility of difficulty – failure, rejection, disappointment, disapproval, lack of understanding and acknowledgement. Procrastination is our greatest ally in avoidance. We procrastinate because we picture the required effort to be greater than we can muster. Some of us procrastinate by putting off the hard things. Others procrastinate by avoiding the seemingly mundane and non-descript tasks. If you are like me, procrastination is a safeguard against (my perception of) the inevitable and unwanted future impositions on my time. To various extents, we picture all of the additional consequences that are intolerable and decide that we will avoid all of that by putting things off completely.
If we tend to avoid people and circumstances, procrastination will be even more appealing. Procrastination and avoidance are part of a destructive cycle. After a while all aspects of our lives are ruled by this dyad. The short-term benefits may be attractive but in the long run we experience a poverty/scarcity of people and things, as the Proverbs text references.
Learning to not procrastinate has been a struggle for me, particularly when it comes to relationships. The impact can be cumulative and when things are unaddressed, they create layers of resentment and bitterness that result in actions and reactions, from those closest to us, that seem sudden and unexpected. An honest review of my procrastination and avoidance may provide a clue as to the nature of the emotional layers that have been created. To the person on the receiving end of my procrastination, the situation can feel so intolerable and unbearable. The first step towards a remediation of this tendency is to acknowledge the temptation to procrastinate. I cannot deny it as a character flaw. The second step is to trust God that even if the outcome is as I fear, he is able to bear me through it (1 Corinthians 10:13). The final step is as Nike says, “just do it”. Intentionality, repetition and a desire to change are necessary for this to become a habit.
Each moment is created for a specific task. Procrastination replaces this God-given task with one of my own as if to broadcast defiantly that I am the best judge of how my time is spent. Submission to God asks “is this what I am supposed to be doing with this moment?”. Choose submission.