Overcoming Procrastination Using The Word of God

Updated on July 8, 2016
drmiddlebrook profile image

Dr. Middlebrook, former university professor, is a fiction/non-fiction author (pen name Beax Rivers), and virtual writing coach and trainer.

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“He that observeth the wind shall not sow; and he that regardeth the clouds shall not reap.” (Ecclesiastes 11:4)

Procrastination can permeate your life, causing you to put off both the big and the little things you need or want to do. What do you do when you feel the slothful monster of procrastination trying to creep into your life?

There’s nothing wrong with spending an inordinate amount of time observing the wind and watching the clouds, if you're a meteorologist. But, if you're someone who is making observations of wind and clouds instead of or to avoid doing work that you need to be doing, then there's plenty wrong with it. Or, if you're sitting idly by waiting for the "perfect time" to do a particular chore you're dreading, then it could be that you will put it off forever.

So make up your mind, right now, to get up and get going. Just take one step toward completing your goal. Once you make a step, you're in the process; you're working on it.

There's just something wonderful and "right" about doing what you need to do, when you need to do it. Something solid. Something liberating. Something good. Something that feels like empowerment. I’m not even borrowing from Nike’s slogan when I say it solves so many of life’s problems to just do it.

Because God sees and is concerned with even the most intricate details of our lives when we invite Him in, there is hope--even for procrastinators.

Sloth/laziness is one of the Seven Deadly Sins.
Sloth/laziness is one of the Seven Deadly Sins. | Source

Procrastination: A Thief of Time

What does the Bible tell us about procrastination? Is there anything in God’s word that addresses this kind of behavior? Yes. The Bible actually addresses any and every kind of behavioral challenge possible, including procrastination. Procrastination is a destroyer of blessings. It can rob you of self-confidence, reliability, and personal peace. In Proverbs 18:9, the Bible says, "He also who is slack in his work Is brother to him who destroys."

Making a habit of putting things off is related to having a lack of self-control, and remember that self-control, or temperance, is among the fruit of the spirit (Galatians 5:23). When we learn to live in the Spirit, we become empowered by the Holy Spirit. Scripture teaches us that while Satan can control our flesh, our spirit can rise above him and take back control of our flesh. It is the power of the Holy Spirit that enables us to transcend weaknesses of the flesh. Just as fasting and praying allows us to transcend and temporarily suspend our fleshly desires and need for food, the human spirit can be tapped into to transcend any and all fleshly desires or weaknesses.

Several of the many reasons we put things off include:

  • Laziness/sloth
  • Fear/dread/apprehension
  • Doubt/uncertainty
  • Habit/weakness
  • Angst/anxiety

Not only is it wrong, it is unhealthy and unholy to allow yourself to remain paralyzed by doubt, uncertainty, fear, laziness, or weakness. The Bible teaches us in 2 Timothy 1:7: “Wherefore I put thee in remembrance that thou stir up the gift of God, which is in thee by the putting on of my hands. For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.” Therefore, if God has not given us fear, and if the lack of self-control is not of God, it should be obvious that these negative human traits are sinful. Had Adam and Eve not sinned against God in the Garden of Eden, none of us would be struggling today against the ravages of such personal evils as procrastination.

Can't seem to get around to organizing basement clutter?
Can't seem to get around to organizing basement clutter? | Source

Putting Things Off, Big and Small

It is possible to become so good at procrastinating that so many things can actually become piled up high enough to stress you out--over the mere number of things you need to do because you kept putting things off. By the time you reach this "black belt" level of procrastination, you should know it has become a major handicap, and that it is time for change. In its chronic stages, procrastination, instead of moving things aside to allow the placing of one thing ahead of doing something else, creates a blockade to achieving anything. It becomes a mental brick wall that can become formidable, nearly impossible to break through.

Why do we sometimes allow ourselves to erect such a wall? Is it mostly just outright laziness? Or is it, more often, caused by fear that completing a task might change our lives, and we’re just not comfortable with the idea of change? I’m not talking about big change here. I'm talking about mundane, everyday things that can bring about even the slightest little change in the way you’ve done things in the past. Rearranging and straightening the garage, or the basement, will erase memories of "the way things were." I believe the fear of change within us can be so insidious we don't even know it's there, and that it can sometimes be manifested in the exercising of tight control over personal space, something we can control.

Definitely going to box up those old clothes and give them away one day soon, real soon.
Definitely going to box up those old clothes and give them away one day soon, real soon. | Source

I’m talking now about the little things we don't want to change--such as clearing off a desk or straightening up and cleaning out a closet, allowing books, papers, clothing, shoes, and personal belongings to become stacked in piles. Not the clutter that forms while you’re actively working on a project. I’m talking about the months and years of pile-up that happens gradually, and that can get out of hand.

If you allow such pile-ups to occur, it can become easy to pretend you actually have a system, and that you're only keeping things a certain way because you “know where everything is.” But the truth is probably related to the fear of changing how you do things, and to laziness. It’s takes less effort to put something in a pile, than to organize it or to create a filing system for it. And even though a filing system is a much better solution—and is actually much easier in the short and long-run because it creates a place for everything—fear of changing methodology and mental laziness can creep in and overwhelm you, convincing you that it is easier to sloppily place things, indefinitely, into a pile or a stack.

How do we end such bad habits? Do we really need to involve God in something that can seem to be such a mundane matter?

Procrastination, while it might seem like a mundane thing, can actually derail your life in many ways. It can cause/be implicated in:

  • Delaying work/projects that are important to your personal/family life, or your career/job.
  • Impeding the efforts of others by not doing your part.
  • Avoiding making important or necessary decisions and/or commitments.
  • Becoming involved, habitually, in health-damaging, time wasting behavior (such as becoming a physical activity avoiding couch potato).
  • Often being late for appointments, or irresponsibly avoiding attending to financial obligations/commitments.
  • Overloading others by forcing them to have to complete your tasks/responsibilities.

If you want to break the habit of procrastinating, and you've tried but don't believe you can do it in your own strength, then it may be that reaching out to God is exactly what you need to do. To stir up the gifts of God, you must ask Him to be in your life in all ways, large and small. Ending your habit of procrastinating may seem small, but who knows what you might be able to accomplish once you learn to stop putting things off?

Sometimes it seems much easier to hide away and put things off, than to find the courage needed to face a challenge.
Sometimes it seems much easier to hide away and put things off, than to find the courage needed to face a challenge. | Source

Remember, as long as you and I live in a physical body, we are going to face physical and mental challenges. Because our bodies are made of flesh, we are physically and mentally chained to the temptations and weaknesses of flesh. For this reason, it is not possible to overcome any of our weaknesses completely. We will always be engaged, to some degree, in a battle between spirit and flesh. And we can only hope to live a life that allows us to tap into spiritual power, so that God will help us, every day, to rise above our fleshly weaknesses and limitations.

Although it is easy to laugh at the silliness of procrastination and it’s cousin, blame—it’s really not a laughing matter. Whenever we put off for tomorrow what we need to or should do today, we are actually overloading tomorrow, and throwing away an important chunk of today. We’re also putting off our own blessings; demonstrating lack of self-control, and choosing not to exercise power over our spirit. I don’t believe there is any way God could be pleased with procrastination.

While I am not a notorious procrastinator, I must admit there have been times in my life when I have put off doing things that I really needed to do, or that I believed I wanted to do. Whenever I procrastinated, I always found a way to blame something other than myself for my procrastination. I was (a) too tired, (b) too sleepy, (c) too busy, or (d) too stressed. Other times, I found mental blockades to blame such as (a) I was too unfocused on what needed to be done, (b) too focused on doing something else, (c) I had too much on my mind and couldn't focus on any one thing, or (d) I couldn’t think of a reason, I just didn't want to do whatever it was I needed to do, so I didn't do it.

In other words, whenever I have needed an excuse or something to blame for procrastinating, I surely have been able to find (or to invent) one. I know from my own experiences that if you always look at something as standing between you and your ability to get it done, no matter what it was, then you don't ever really hold yourself responsible for not doing it. Right? But this is wrong thinking, because the end result of all procrastination is destruction: The destruction of progress, accomplishment, dreams and, ultimately, human potential and spirit.

Portrait of poet, novelist, playwright Langston Hughes, 3/4 profile; Carl Van Vechten, photographer, Feb. 29, 1936.
Portrait of poet, novelist, playwright Langston Hughes, 3/4 profile; Carl Van Vechten, photographer, Feb. 29, 1936. | Source

What Happens to a Procrastinator's Dreams?

I sometimes think about a poem by Harlem Renaissance poet Langston Hughes. In this poem, titled “A Dream Deferred,” even though Hughes wasn't necessarily speaking of procrastination, I believe his words also reveal what can happen to many of a procrastinator‘s dream. Hughes wrote:

“What happens to a dream deferred? Does it dry up like a raisin in the sun? Or fester like a sore—and then run? Does it stink like rotten meat? Or crust and sugar over—like a syrupy sweet? Maybe it just sags like a heavy load. Or does it just explode?”

The point of what Langston Hughes is saying is that we can never really know what might have been. What happens to unrealized potential? To dreams that are put on the back burner? Whenever any of our dreams get put aside or left to rot, for any reason, we really miss out—our whole life through, on what might have been.

When any of us procrastinates, what are we waiting for? Why do we often defer the very thing we want to do—more than anything else, to some later date? Are we waiting to become more “perfect,” or are we waiting for the perfect time? I think deferring dreams has as much to do with the fear of success, as it has to do with the fear of failure. I think a lot of times when our dreams are in a “dream world,” we’re actually a lot more comfortable with them. They’re not threatening to our ego, or our self-confidence, when they don’t hold the possibility for failure. As long as they’re just dreams, we can have what we dream of in its entirety—as a dream—and we don’t have to worry about losing the joy we get from dreaming the dream, to failure. Dreaming allows us the freedom of never having to worry about losing control of how things turn out in the dream.

Dreams are safe and under our control, in our mind and in our hearts. And if we’re able to conquer, long enough, the desire to act on trying to achieve a dream, then eventually that desire will quiet down, and we’ll actually start to feel good about having the dream tucked away in some neat little corner of a tomorrow that will never come.

God wants us to manage properly what we have now, before He will entrust us with more. In fact, if we don’t learn to appreciate and manage well the time and the responsibilities we have, we run the risk of losing even that (read the “Parable of the Talents” in Matthew 25:14-30 ).

For example, if you are working and want to be promoted, yet you’re constantly putting off efforts that might show your commitment and dedication to the responsibilities of the position or job you have now, most people would see you as not being ready for more responsibility. Why would anyone feel you could handle more if you’re not willing to handle what you now have? Even if you feel you are capable of doing more, what you’re showing is that you’re not capable of doing what you’re responsible for now. Therefore, your actions and/or inaction, is not presenting a convincing argument in favor of your being promoted.

If you've made up your mind about it, there's something you can do right now to begin the end of procrastination.
If you've made up your mind about it, there's something you can do right now to begin the end of procrastination. | Source

Something You Can Do Right Now to End Procrastination

Begin by making a list of the steps you know you need to take to get yourself in motion. It doesn't matter whether what you want to accomplish is a small thing or a big dream, remember, “the journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.”

Here’s a tip. Scribble down anything you can think of at first, just to get your list started. Then, after brainstorming your list, edit and organize your thoughts. Put things at the top of the list that are most immediately “doable.” These should be things that require the smallest effort on your part. Maybe there are supplies you’ll need to buy. That’s easy enough, as long as the items are inexpensive.

Starting your list with things that you can do fairly easily still represents a start. Those things requiring a little more effort should come next on your list. Finally, at the bottom of the list should be things requiring other people’s input, or that require the most time, effort, or money to accomplish. By using the easy-to-do things to get yourself in motion, you will have made a fantastic start towards accomplishing some of your goals while spending as little money as possible. When it comes to the “big items,“ you might have to juggle some time commitments, or you might need to save a while to have the cash needed to complete a project requiring a large financial investment. In the meantime, by doing the more "doable" things on your list, you will have at least gotten underway. You're actually working on something, and you're not procrastinating.

Another article you might like, by this author.

Failing to Succeed, by S. B. Middlebrook, PhD

Questions & Answers

    © 2012 Sallie B Middlebrook PhD

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      • drmiddlebrook profile imageAUTHOR

        Sallie B Middlebrook PhD 

        3 days ago from Texas, USA

        Thank you so much, Anna, for sharing your story with me. I am hopeful that reading my article helped you in your journey toward liberation from procrastination. Believe to achieve! You can do it.

      • profile image

        Anna 

        7 days ago

        Five years later this article confronts my current state of being in a liberating way. I have missed so many opportunities, suffered low self-esteem, inferiority complex because of Procrastination. I am on a fasting for divine intervention and came across this article. Thank you for yielding when you published this article. #liberationinprogress

      • profile image

        Johnny 

        5 months ago

        Thank you for inspiring and reinvigorating my inner self and abilities that my maker has endowed me with. I was getting to a tipping point with a recent habit of procrastination which is actually mere laziness and fear.

        Reading your article has spurred me back to action.

      • drmiddlebrook profile imageAUTHOR

        Sallie B Middlebrook PhD 

        7 months ago from Texas, USA

        Thank you so much, Sharon A. Baker, for your visit and your comments. I am thankful to God for inspiring me to tap into "the gift of clarity," and for allowing me to infuse his words of wisdom into my writing. So glad you found inspiration from reading this article, and I'm praying for your continued success in embracing his wisdom as your own.

      • profile image

        Sharon A. Baker 

        7 months ago

        God has blessed you with the gift of clarity. I needed to hear your words of wisdom from a biblical prospective. My heart is reignited with the goal the Lord has placed on my heart.

        Thank you

      • drmiddlebrook profile imageAUTHOR

        Sallie B Middlebrook PhD 

        9 months ago from Texas, USA

        Thank you Lightning Gazer68. It is always my goal to help someone with the words I'm inspired to write and publish. I pray that you will continue to trust God to strengthen your mind and spirit, so that you will be able to use your energy to put into motion the things you know you need to do, to get your work done. We all must fight, sometimes, to keep our eyes on those things we want to manifest in our lives. Trust and believe that the more you pray, while believing, the stronger you will become to overcome procrastination.

      • profile image

        lightning gazer68 

        9 months ago

        thank you so much for this article. it really helped me a lot... A lot of things run in my mind and i don't really know how to put it into words. When i stumbled upon your article, almost every words you mentioned hits me... Those are so true...I'm a college student and i just keep getting burned out due to chronic procrastination... And i will surely do communicate with the lord everyday to help me.. I've been battling with this thing and the more i fight it the more it pursues to show off and ruin my plans...

        thank you so much for sharing... love lots

      • drmiddlebrook profile imageAUTHOR

        Sallie B Middlebrook PhD 

        2 years ago from Texas, USA

        Thank you Kristin Shay. I once was a procrastinator, but I wasn't getting much accomplished in terms of things I'd always dreamed of doing, so I had to find a way to make me stop it! Glad the article made you think. Good luck!!

      • Kristin Shay profile image

        Kristin Shay 

        2 years ago from Illinois

        I am a huge procrastinator, great article make me think.

      • drmiddlebrook profile imageAUTHOR

        Sallie B Middlebrook PhD 

        3 years ago from Texas, USA

        Thank you Hannah David Cini, for your visit and the wisdom of your comment. You're right. Putting things off that we really need to get done truly creates more problems than it ever solves. The stress alone is enough reason to get it done!

      • Hannah David Cini profile image

        Hannah David Cini 

        3 years ago from Nottingham

        A great article - I love the quote from Hughes. I used to be notorious for procrastination and it caused a lot more stress and work than it ever saved.

      • drmiddlebrook profile imageAUTHOR

        Sallie B Middlebrook PhD 

        5 years ago from Texas, USA

        Hello RonElFran, and thanks for the laugh. We all earn and deserve a "day off" (or two) every now and then, so hats off to you for taking yours! And you're right about doing what you can do to begin accomplishing any task. Once you put forth even one effort toward it, you've stopped procrastinating and have started the task. That would fit within what I wrote: "By using the easy-to-do things to get yourself in motion, you will have made a fantastic start ...." You're right, at first it's all about getting it started, and then it becomes about working to see it finished and done with!

      • RonElFran profile image

        Ronald E Franklin 

        5 years ago from Mechanicsburg, PA

        Ironically, as I read this hub, this is a day when I feel like doing absolutely nothing. I like your idea of making a list, but right now even that would require more energy than I can muster. I think I'll make this an official rest day - then I won't be procrastinating! More seriously, I've found that the biggest help in overcoming procrastination is just getting started on the task. Once started, it's much easier to keep at it until it's done.

      • drmiddlebrook profile imageAUTHOR

        Sallie B Middlebrook PhD 

        5 years ago from Texas, USA

        Hi Purpose Embraced. Thanks for reading and commenting on this Hub, and for sharing your own procrastination story. I think most of us understand what you mean by waiting for "the right mindset." I've learned it's best to talk yourself into that mindset as often as possible. I've found it's a great way to get myself moving and to get many of my goals accomplished.

      • Purpose Embraced profile image

        Yvette Stupart PhD 

        5 years ago from Jamaica

        Thanks for sharing. I find that I procrastinate most when I am not to sure how to proceed with a project, and this increases my anxiety levels. The result is likely to be further procrastination, until I get myself in the right mindset to get things moving.

      • drmiddlebrook profile imageAUTHOR

        Sallie B Middlebrook PhD 

        5 years ago from Texas, USA

        Yes! Putting things off until . . . until, clogs up the future with what should be the past! Thanks BlossomSB.

      • BlossomSB profile image

        Bronwen Scott-Branagan 

        5 years ago from Victoria, Australia

        Some good ideas here. Thanks for the reminder, must get on with it!

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