You are in your Mind Palace.
You head for the Procrastination Room. Well, that was your intention before you became distracted. Okay, let’s get the jokes out of the way first.
The Procrastination Room – Maybe next time . . .
The Procrastination Room – I’ve been meaning to go in there, but never seem to find the time. Heading there right now . . . right now . . . I promise . . . hold on, is that a tea cup that needs washing up?
Let me tell you a secret. There is NO Procrastination Room. It doesn’t exist. Instead, procrastination is the aroma in your Mind Palace that prevents you from entering rooms that you really should visit.
Procrastination seems like a joke – hence the amusing observations above – but in reality it’s deadly serious. And it could be destroying you.
‘I’m just putting that off’ seems so innocuous, doesn’t it? The little excuses we give ourselves for why we haven’t managed to make time for something. But it’s because our excuses seem so unimportant that procrastination is so insidious.
In truth, it can quite literally rob us of our lives.
Benjamin Franklin once said, ‘Don't put off until tomorrow what you can do today.’ Well, that sounds just fine and dandy, but what does that even mean? Stop looking at me like that. I could do any number of things today, but I can’t do them all, can I? Ben Franklin should stick to his eyeglasses and his politics!
You got it. We often make excuses for our procrastination instead of facing up to it. So what’s going on? Why do we do it?
Today, two reasons worth considering.
Disorganisation. We live disordered lives, running from one thing to another and avoiding things which require more of us. That one requires a phone call. You don’t like the phone. You put it off. That one can’t be solved without a conversation with your boss and then figuring out how to respond. You don’t have the energy for that. So you put it off. You kick it down the road. Internally, you say ‘I will do it eventually,’ but that is meaningless and you know it.
We all have different personality types. I get that. But some things we all share. And one of them is time. We all have 24 hours in the day. Psalm 90.2 says, Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.
Number our days. Time is precious. It matters how we order our lives, since our lives are a gift from God. Disorganisation speaks of an ill-disciplined life. Putting things off betrays a person who hasn’t faced up to some of the challenging aspects of life. Instead of seeking help, we put things off. Instead of facing up to reality, we hope that by putting things off, they will go away. We lie to ourselves.
Procrastination is often based on a lie. It says, ‘I can’t’ or ‘I don’t know how.’ Neither of these is true. Not only that but inability isn’t really the driving force.
Indeed, fear is one of the prime engines behind so much of what we do. It doesn’t need a blog post. It needs an entire book.
Here are just a few thoughts, which will have to suffice.
The reason procrastination is so insidious is because it prevents us tackling painful and difficult areas of our lives. In your Mind Palace, you wander past the Unresolved Conflict Room. You hurry past that one. On the left is a door marked Damaged Family Relationships. That one fills you with terror. But then further down is a door marked ‘Communication with my Spouse.’ You want to go in, but again, you’re frightened, so you walk past. Best to leave all of that until another day.
All because of fear.
Fear of conflict. Fear of pain. Fear of failure. Fear of looking inside. There are so many things that stoke fear.
So we ingest another lie: procrastination works just fine.
And it does, if you want to accept a life clothed with fear.
Is procrastination a sin? The word doesn’t appear in the Bible to my knowledge, but the Scriptures have a lot to say about how to live well.
Paul writes to the Colossians, Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters. (Col 3.23a)
Avoiding painful areas of our lives isn’t a solution. It’s a coping mechanism. If you want to stop procrastinating, then at some point, you’ll have to face it head on.
The Bible contains a great deal of wisdom about how to deal with fear. How often do we reference Joshua before he enters the Promised Land? Be strong and courageous! You’ve probably preached a sermon or five on that one.
And then there’s this beauty from the Apostle John. There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. 1 John 4.18a.
I’ve often thought that the opposite of faith isn’t doubt, but fear. We can either live with our fears or face them. We can either embrace the love of God, and seek his help, or continue to avoid painful issues. The writer, Susan Jeffers, once wrote a book entitled, Feel the fear and Do It Anyway. I like that. If you wait until you’re no longer afraid, then you will continue procrastinating for the rest of your life.
So you can put off dealing with procrastination, or – joking aside – you can face up to it. Your response is not a joke; it’s deadly serious. In fact, right now, why don’t you write down one area of your life you’ve been avoiding?
It could be a conversation with your mother; it could be with your co-worker. It could be something extremely challenging or it could be a neighbour who keeps leaving his bin on your driveway.
But choose one. Do it now.
Then meditate and feed on John’s words. Perfect love drives out fear.
Feel the fear – it’s okay to admit that you’re frightened – but then gird up your courage, seek God in faith, and go and find that person. Do it today. Not tomorrow. That’s essential.
God is faithful and compassionate. He promises us that he is with us at all times and in all places. He is especially close to those who walk with him in faith.
As the Lord said to his servant, Joshua, Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.