|The appetite of the lazy craves, and gets nothing, while the appetite of the diligent is richly supplied.” Proverbs 13:4 (NRSV)
Numbers intimidate me. So I put off doing anything that involves counting more digits than are on my hands and feet combined. This approach tends to have significant consequences, especially when those numbers are connected to dollars. Hence a few bounced check charges in my banking history.
Avoiding uncomfortable (but necessary) parts of life is a dangerous habit to develop. With very few exceptions, problems don’t resolve on their own, no matter how long we procrastinate in fixing them. A leaky faucet never stops leaking by itself. A root of bitterness toward my husband will grow. The squeal in my car brakes will get louder. And putting off medical tests is never a good idea.
I’ve also delayed pursuing dreams because there’s discomfort involved. Maybe you’ve done this too. Your dream could be to write a book, take a vacation or find a new job. But you know it will involve sacrifice, so you put your dream on the back burner while time slips away.
Sometimes God tells me to wait while He initiates a solution, but usually, the reason for my delay tactics is my own fear of the work, or the possibility of failure, or the inconvenience and self-sacrifice it will take.
A few years ago I read a book by Josh Riebock that helped give me perspective when I want to postpone a difficult assignment. In it, he says, “Everyone can change tomorrow. Everyone solves problems tomorrow. But the only changes that matter are the ones I make today. Tomorrow is the easiest day I’ll ever live. Today is the scary one, which is probably why I’ve spent so much time avoiding it.”
Scripture also offers wisdom about dealing with procrastination. Proverbs 13:4 uses some challenging words, but it also includes hope: “The appetite of the lazy craves, and gets nothing, while the appetite of the diligent is richly supplied” (NRSV). This verse gets to the heart of the matter, which is my hunger. While I bristle at being called lazy, the reality is when I procrastinate, I am hungering for comfort or safety. I might be busy, but I’m never accomplishing anything when my goal is ease.
It’s easy to know I shouldn’t procrastinate, but it’s much harder to do something about it. That’s because my reasons are mixed. Sometimes I am afraid like Riebock says, and sometimes I am lazy like the Bible says. Other times I’m overwhelmed and can’t think straight.
Whatever the cause of my procrastination, I’ve found some approaches that help combat my reticence to tackle an assignment. And it starts with something easy:
I present my concerns to God with honesty. I tell God why I don’t want to do something and ask for His help, strength, wisdom and courage. When I’m honest about my hesitations, God can start to build up my weak places. But then I get practical.
I keep my to-do list short and manageable. Long to-do lists discourage me from doing anything. That’s why I keep two lists going at all times: A master list of projects and a to-do list for the day or week.
I divide big tasks into smaller tasks. For example, I needed a better filing system for organizing receipts for taxes. So the next time I went to the office product store, I purchased hanging files and a desktop organizer and moved that project forward.
I assign small tasks to a specific day. Instead of doing a lot of things I don’t like on one day, I’ll spread them throughout the week.
Whether it’s numbers or words that intimidate you. A relationship that needs to be addressed, or a dream that needs to be followed. There is nothing we have to handle alone or in our own power. The truth is God has already gone ahead of us into these scary places. He knows the future and He’s already got it under control.
Heavenly Father, thank You for going ahead of me when I want to hold back. Help me to deal honestly with my reasons for procrastinating and allow You to work in my heart and life. In Jesus’ Name, amen.
James 4:17, “If anyone, then, knows the good they ought to do and doesn’t do it, it is sin for them.” (NIV)