Our Blogkeep up to date with the latest

Procrastination

Yesterday’s Times reported a new report published that reveals that Britain is a nation of…erm…procrastinators.

75% of adults surveyed admitted that they were addicted to putting things off.  Filing, ironing and washing the car were among the common tasks avoided, but the stand out winner was…cleaning the oven.  Nearly a third of men said that they wished their partner would stop nagging them about household tasks, while 42% of women wished that their partners would be more helpful.  Oh dear.

Rather than work on a sermon (and other obvious procrastination related gags) I thought I would pen some thoughts on putting tasks off.   The Bible is clear that idleness is a sin (2 Thessalonians 3:6ff).  Perhaps some need to hear that bluntly stated.  However, why do we procrastinate?  Some suggestions:  Is it because:

1)     Hard work is…hard?  It is more pleasant to sit and watch TV…to perform tasks that we like than to work hard.  Biblically, Christians are commanded to work hard: “Make it your ambition to…work with your hands so that your daily life may win the respect of outsiders and so that you will not be dependent on anybody” (1 Thessalonians 4:11-12).  If we have grown accustomed to laziness, we need to be reminded that our evangelism and our fellowship will suffer.

2)     We fool ourselves that we are busy?  We can fool ourselves into thinking we are too busy for cleaning the oven or ringing someone we should or indeed praying.  It is easy to fill our time with good things: some “research” on the internet perhaps; preparing a revision timetable if a student; relaxing so we have enough energy to attack the tasks in hand.  “The heart is deceitful above all things” (Jeremiah 17:9) and so we can begin by being honest in our use of time.

3)     We fear the possibility of failure?  Sometimes we don’t want to give something our best shot in case it fails.  Then what?  It is far more comforting to think, “Well, I didn’t try my best so it doesn’t matter that it didn’t go too well; if I had tried harder then I probably would have succeeded.”  This is self-delusion.  We should not think of ourselves more highly than we ought (Romans 12:3)

4)     We fear the opinions of others?  This is clearly related to #3.  We can be so paralyzed by the what others will think of our essay…project…sermon etc that we delay beginning in the hope that somehow a brilliant piece of work will magically appear.

They may or not be true of you, but what can we do?

1)     Remember God’s power to change you.  Self Control is part of the Fruit of the Spirit that God grows in the life of every believer.  You can change in the area of procrastination as in every area of life.  So pray that God would change you in this area.

2)     Be accountable to others.  Tell someone or those you pray with what precisely you are struggling with and get them to hold you to account.  Practical things such as a timetable with start and finish times; turning off e-mail so that you’re not interrupted; not allowing yourself play time until a certain point in the day / week.  Rules can be helpful servants sometimes.

3)     Repent of procrastination.  Very little change begins without repentance and forgiveness.

4)    Expect to fail.  It’s very liberating to know that we all fall short of the glory of God in many ways (Romans 3:23) but that we can be forgiven.  Acknowledging our failure but trusting in God’s goodness and having another go is inherent in Christian living.  So what if the task we do is not brilliant?

5)     Look up and work for the Lord. Acknowledging that we work for the Lord can make us feel a right sense of shame at idleness and a right sense of pleasure when we use our time well.  It doesn’t justify us of course, but there is a pleasure in obedience.

Matt Fuller
Senior Minister