A lesson plan called for the teacher to cut out cardboard circles and print “TUIT” on them. Then she was to pass them out to her students and state that they now had no excuse for saying “I didn’t get around to it.” Part of the human condition is that we sometimes put off what should be done. We share the trait of all physical entities: inertia, a thing at rest tends to stay at rest. The tasks we do not undertake can be mundane, such as sewing on a button or washing the windows. Or they can be more serious: making an appointment for a mammogram, apologizing to someone we’ve hurt, or going to confession. Procrastination is akin to sloth, which is one of the ten deadly sins! It has negative consequences. The chore we haven’t accomplished weighs on our mind and heart until we tackle it. It induces stress and anxiety. When we do “get around to it,” we may do the job poorly. Here are some ideas for combating procrastination and taking action.
- Pay attention to nudges to do something. We used to call inspirations from the Holy Spirit actual graces. If you get the notion that you ought to visit your neighbor who is in the hospital, keep it uppermost in your mind. Don’t let an avalanche of daily activities smother it.
- Write it down. (You might make a list!) Place the paper where you will see it. Great satisfaction comes from checking off the item.
- Imagine how free and happy you will feel after you have finished the task . . . and are ready to move on to the next one.
- Consider what might happen if you do not act soon. One young woman put off reconciling with her father. She will forever regret it because he died suddenly while they were still estranged.
- Set goals for yourself. For example, I will finish writing this blog before it is time to go to Mass.
- Plan to reward yourself when the task is completed. Maybe after you write the three sympathy cards and one thank-you note you will treat yourself to a piece of chocolate–dark chocolate.
- Let someone else in on your desire to do something. That might make you feel more accountable and motivate you to act.
Fear may be a factor in procrastinating. Fear of rejection: I don’t propose to my girlfriend. Fear of failure: I don’t apply for that job or position. Fear of the unknown: I don’t move to another state. Such fears can paralyze us and prevent us from living a rich life. In these cases, pray to God for help. Ask the Holy Spirit to activate the gift of courage. Then trust that God who loves you will be at your side as you go forward.
To quote an old proverb: Never put off to tomorrow what you can do today. Tomorrow the window of opportunity might be closed and you risk that the task will never be done. This reminds me of a greeting card I gave my niece when she graduated. It read, “I’d like to make footprints in the sands of time, but you can’t make footprints if you’re sitting on your butt . . .unless your intent is to make buttprints in the sands of times.”
In the Bible, people acted immediately when God gave them a job. (The prophet Jonah was an outstanding exception.) Moses dared to confront the pharaoh, the Virgin Mary spontaneously said “yes,” James and John left their father and fishing boats, and Paul did a 180° turnaround and became a missionary. In this season of Lent, God may be calling you to address a pressing matter. We are warned, “Now is the time of salvation.”
What is God calling you to do?