Nearly everyone including myself battles procrastination. Researchers have found that at least 95 percent of people admit to falling prey to procrastination. And of those, approximately 20 percent would actually consider themselves chronic procrastinators. At one time I would have placed myself in that chronic procrastination category.
But I can honestly say that a combination of faith, bible knowledge, personal experience and age have turned me into a procrastination overcomer. I’ll admit that like most people I still have the occasional battle with procrastination, when it comes to doing things I do not want to do; but I have discovered some simple principles that have helped me immensely.
Procrastination when practiced regularly can develop into an art form. Like many people I was first captivated by the art of procrastination when I was in college. It was there I discovered two things about procrastination. If it were not for the last minute, I would not get anything done. And when it came to doing things I didn’t want to do, especially studying, someday became my favorite day of the week.
There has been voluminous research done on procrastination, hundreds of books written on the topic and countless principles posited for overcoming it. So it is with a due sense of humility that I offer my condensation of all that and everything I have learned into three simple principles that work for me. Here therefore are three ways I have discovered to beat procrastination.
1. Plan it. Write down what you want or need to do, and when you plan to do it. It is even helpful to give some thought to how you are going to do it and recording those details as well. Put the dreaded task in a prominent and appropriate place on your “to do” list. If it is out of sight, it will be out of mind and as a result you will not likely think of working on it even when you have the opportunity. The old adage, failing to plan is planning to fail applies. Just planning on doing something by assigning it to your to do list will give you a winning advantage. “The plans of the diligent lead surely to advantage.” (Proverbs 21:5 NAS)
And asking God to help in the planning process adds even greater benefit. “Commit everything you do to the LORD. Trust him, and he will help you.” (Psalm 37:5 NLT) I have found, like many people, that for some big tasks or projects, just engaging in the planning process itself, can provide added motivation to do it.
2. Sleep on it. Many tasks we hate to do, and tend to procrastinate, muster every ounce of energy to tackle. They can drain strength and initiative just thinking about them. For those tasks even planning the details of doing them can weary us. But here is a secret I’ve found, and it may seem counter intuitive. Put off the task by sleeping on it – literally! Wait until you have had a good night’s sleep or at least until you’ve had a nap.
It is amazing how much more doable a task can seem when a person awakes refreshed from a restful sleep. One of the reasons this works, and research confirms this, is that although the body is resting, the mind is not. The mind is working while we are sleeping – planning, problem solving and preparing us for the task when we awake. This is especially true when we commit our concerns and fears about the dreaded task to the Lord in prayer. “Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about you.” (1 Peter 5:7 NLT)
This principle of rest preceding work goes all the way back to the creation of Adam and Eve. Their first day on earth was the Sabbath. It was not until the next day, after a full rest, did they tackle their work of tending the garden. Modern society has reversed the Sabbath principle. We think that we work in order to rest, that the sequence is – work then rest, work then rest. But God’s plan for productivity and fulfillment in life is the rhythm of rest then work, rest then work. Jesus said it best. “The Sabbath (rest) was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.” (Mark 2:27)
P.S. Watching TV or indulging in some other procrastination art form does not qualify as rest. Only sleep does.
3. Start it. Give it a minimum of just 10 minutes of your time. This is one of the most amazing tips and tricks that I have discovered to overcoming procrastination. It is called the “10 Minute Rule” in some time management circles. First off, anyone can give something 10 minutes. We waste that amount of time numerous times in every day. Ten minutes is a very low and very doable commitment. It just takes overcoming the inertia to get a small start. Anyone can do it. But here is the genius of this. Very few people, once they get started will want to stop after 10 minutes. I have accomplished more big projects this way. The 10 minutes so whets my appetite that I get hooked, booked and cooked by the project and end up being reluctant to stop. It is a wondrous principle.
There is a twist on the familiar Bible verse “Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might.” (Ecclesiastes 9:10 NIV) We usually take this verse as a command. In other words, if you are going to do something, do it with all your gusto and do it well. But I have discovered with this “Start it! 10 Minute Rule,” that this verse is really a promise. The promise is that whatever your hand starts and is willing to give a minimum of 10 minutes to, you will end up so immersed in the project that you will naturally respond by doing it with all your might.
Here is one final thought, and it combines all three principles into a workable understanding of how so many people in the Bible overcame procrastination to do great things for God. The phrases “early in the morning” or “early the next day” are used numerous times to describe how individuals went about tackling daunting tasks in obedience to God. Every one of them, from Abraham, Moses, Joshua and David to Jesus and His disciples, all did three things. They planned to do what God was telling them by putting it at the top of their “to do” list. They gathered strength and resolve by first sleeping on it. Then the first 10 minutes early the next morning, they started to do it. The rest is history.
If you have been procrastinating on a necessary, but daunting task, give these principles a try. 1) Plan it. 2) Sleep on it. 3) Start it – with just a minimum of a 10 minute commitment. Bring God into it with prayer on each step and you will find success.
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