The slogan on the t-shirt said, “Procrastinators, Unite—Tomorrow.”
Can you relate to that? Most of us are very good at putting off until tomorrow what we don’t want to do today. Some of us even go so far as to make lists of what we know we should do. We carefully arrange the tasks in order of importance—and then totally ignore the list and do what we wanted to do in the first place. I know, because I’m a procrastinator.
Dr. John Perry, professor in Stanford University’s philosophy department, says, “All procrastinators put off things they have to do.” Structured procrastination, he calls it.
“The key idea is that procrastinating does not mean doing absolutely nothing. Procrastinators seldom do absolutely nothing; they do marginally useful things, like…sharpening pencils or making a diagram of how they will reorganize their files when they get around to it. Why does the procrastinator do these things? Because they are a way of not doing something more important.” Then he humorously points out the enormously great number of things we accomplish while we’re putting off that one thing we don’t want to do.[i]
So, what causes procrastination? “Basically, it is fears,” says psychologist Dr. Clayton Tucker-Ladd. Dr. Ladd points out that “In varying degrees we are all afraid of facing reality–life’s challenges, the hard work and frustrations ahead of us…. Procrastination is an escape.”[ii]
For years I have admired the way my husband does the most important tasks first. In fact, if there is something he doesn’t want to do, he does that first and gets it out of the way.
But today I found a verse in the Bible that spoke to my heart. The writer of Psalm 119 says, “I will hasten and not delay to obey your commands” (Psalm 119:60). There’s no wiggle-room in that verse. Hasten—and not delay–well, if God wants me to do it, I’d better get at it. Good advice for a procrastinator like me!
[i] John Perry, “Structured Procrastination,” http://www-csli.stanford.edu/~john/procrastination.html, 1995
[ii] Clayton E. Tucker-Ladd, “Procrastination,” Psychological Self-Help,
What fear is holding you back today?