Growing up as a young boy, it was typical of me to seek clarity often in order to understand something. At some point, however, it felt like I was over doing it and the need to be self-reliant and dependable never made it any easier. With an increased inferiority complex, I slowly found myself asking less and running with my assumptions, most of which were far from reality. With time and a lot of guidance from many awesome people in my life, as well as different life experiences, my curiosity and need to learn has taken a good turn and it’s getting better.
The exposure and guidance have, however, come with their own side effects if I may call it that. The genuine curiosity and need to be thorough and perfect has come with its own issues. I find myself second guessing a decision I am about to make, looking out for potential loopholes or kinks that would either make it invalid or subject to criticism. I wait too long to do something because I am waiting for a perfect time which usually never comes, if such a thing even exists.
I set out to write about something and feel like I don’t have enough information to work with, haven’t done enough research or there is already a lot of information out there and I wouldn’t be adding any value to the conversation. Sometimes, I even create something or get an idea and wait too long to unleash or share it because of the need to refine it to perfection. As a result, I have many ideas that have never seen the light of day, some only stayed in my mind because I tried for too long to refine them to perfection that I was too exhausted at a point and never took the first step to bring them to life.
I have thought of attributing all this to atelophobia (fear/phobia of being imperfect), but I realized it is too extreme a case and there are a lot of negative signs for atelophobia that I don’t possess. There could be very many other reasons for this that I may not know, so I will concentrate on telling you what I know — Procrastination.
Procrastination is said to be the thief of time and I have witnessed this first hand in my own life. I have missed out on various opportunities; I have sold myself short and I have taken a back sit in situations that would have otherwise brought better results if only I was at the forefront. Of course, in all this, there are always excuses as to why I didn’t do the needful.
In one of the days of his Daily Devotional, Rick Warren addresses the issue of procrastination. He shares five actions we can take to stop procrastinating. I build on these by sharing some of the principles that have helped me in my struggle with procrastination.
Stop making excuses — Many times I find myself giving reasons as to why I have not done what I had committed to do. What is true though, most of these reasons are usually excuses. There have been moments when I had genuine reasons for not doing something or not fulfilling a promise, however, these are usually followed by proper accountability.
I am sure you know someone who always has an excuse for not doing what they were supposed to do. Giving excuses all the time breeds lack of trust in relationships, be it professional or personal. What have you been saying you’re going to do one of these days? Quit giving excuses and do it. Be accountable where you’re unable to deliver as expected.
Start today — The whole idea of procrastination is postponing what you can do today to another day. I have been a victim of postponing things because I feel I don’t have enough resources to start immediately or I haven’t done enough research. The need to wait for a perfect time to do something has stopped many amazing ideas from ever manifesting. “Whoever watches the wind will not plant; whoever looks at the clouds will not reap.” — Ecclesiastes 11:4 NIV.
There have also been times when I was just too lazy to do what I needed to do. Laziness fuels procrastination and breeds unproductivity. “The soul of the lazy person craves and gets nothing, but the soul of the diligent is rich and abundantly supplied.” — Proverbs 13:4 AMP.
“Getting an idea should be like sitting on a pin; it should make you jump up and do something” — E.L. Simpson. I hope and pray that the next time you get an idea, you don’t wait too long to implement it.
Establish a planned schedule — There are days when I have a lot do and there are days when I don’t. When it’s the former, I am most likely to suffer from burnout because I am trying to finish everything at once and it’s also likely that I had been procrastinating about most of it and I can’t push it anymore. As a result, I spread myself too thin and produce low quality results on all. When it is the latter, I am likely to spend a lot of valuable time on unproductive ventures.
If you fail to plan, you’re planning to fail. Planning and following through on your plan is an important aspect to beating procrastination. In his book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Stephen Covey talks about “Putting First Things First” which is Habit 3 — Habit of Personal Management. Stephen Covey Uses the illustration of a Time Matrix which helps in planning by focusing on your priorities. He also talks about the idea of planning every week. Designating specific time slots each week for the things you need to do helps you give each task the attention it requires. These two practical principles have helped me become more productive. For the past two months I have diligently followed through on implementing them, I haven’t remained the same. You can try to intentionally practice these, or even better, read the whole book by Stephen Covey and put to practice the principles you learn.
“Suppose one of you wants to build a tower, won’t you first sit down and estimate the cost to see if you have enough money to complete it?” — Luke 14:28 NIV.
Face your fears — We hate to admit that we have fears because we think they are a sign of weakness. The fear to start a business, the fear to fail, the fear to lose the current benefits of a job at the expense of following your passions, the fear of having difficult conversations, name it. There are so many fears which we face that make us postpone what needs to done today to another day. Facing our fears is usually hard and we cannot use the same template to address this. However, finding out what exactly you are afraid of is the first step to confronting it.
“For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.” — 1 Timothy 1:7 KJV. I hope and pray that you can find out what fears are fueling your procrastination and that you have the courage to face them.
Focus on what you gain, not the pain — Sometimes we procrastinate because we do not want to be burdened by the task now, we want to be comfortable now and therefore we push the hard and hectic work to tomorrow or the next day. The concept of ease is prevalent with procrastinators. They also usually seldom look at the gain or end result during procrastination and therefore have no motivation to doing it today.
“Begin With the End in Mind” is the second habit of highly effective people and it is the Habit of Personal Vision. The need to have a vision — reason for doing something, and honouring it is important if we are to beat procrastination. Knowing what we want to achieve by doing something can be the motivation to actually doing it.
There are very few things in life that are easy. You must push through the frustration and look at the gain beyond the pain. Don’t ask, “What do I feel like doing?” Instead ask, “What does God want me to do?” What will I gain when I do this today rather than tomorrow?
“Character cannot be developed in ease and quiet. Only through experience of trial and suffering can the soul be strengthened, ambition inspired, and success achieved.” — Helen Keller.
My struggle with procrastination may not be fully over yet, but I am definitely not where I was 2 months ago. You could be struggling with the same or may know someone like this. There is always hope to change for the better. I may never achieve perfection in this area, but I will surely press on and seek to be better each passing day. I hope and pray you do to.
We all have the ability to do what we are called to do and do it right. In a letter to his friends and supporters that were undergoing oppression in Philippi, appealing to his own life as an example, Apostle Paul writes to encourage them. “I can do all things [which he has called me to do] through him who strengthens and empowers me [to fulfill his purpose — I am self-sufficient in Christ’s sufficiency; I am ready for anything and equal to anything through him who infuses me with inner strength and confident peace.]” — Philippians 4:13 AMP.