Recently I ran across a 5-step prescription for beating procrastination (Burns, Ten Days to Self-esteem, 1989):
1. Don’t put the cart before the horse. Instead of waiting for motivation, get started. Action comes first, and motivation comes second.
2. Make a specific plan. Instead of telling yourself you’ll get started one of these days, make a specific plan. Would you like to start today? At what time? What will you do first?
3. Make the job easy (little steps for big feats). Instead of telling yourself you have to do it all at once, decide to do just 10 or 15 minutes of the task. Break the task into small steps, and remind yourself that you only have to take the first small step today.
4. Think positively. Write down the negative thoughts that make you feel guilty and anxious; substitute others that more positive and realistic.
5. Give yourself credit.
On the surface, the process above seems plausible enough. Upon further examination, however for those desiring a faith-based approach, there are a few important issues left unaddressed. Here is a revised “ faith-based” list of steps to overcoming procrastination:
1. Pray before even attaching the cart to the horse. Ask for God’s guidance and the ability to discern His will for the situation. Be willing to have an open heart for whatever the solution might be. God has three answers: “Yes”, “no”, and “not yet”. Most of us have problems with the “no” and the “not yet.”
2. Follow God’s plan. At first, praying and waiting might seem to only add to the procrastination. A priest once told me, “God is slow.” I was taken aback by such a statement but the more I meditated on it, the more I realized the issue at hand: God is not bound by time, everything happens as the Word speaks. Desiring our answers yesterday, our finite small brains have a tendency to measure and magnify each second as we occupy this universe. But the truth of the matter is that even if we have to wait the duration of our entire life it is but a speck when viewed in the Light of Eternity.
3. God makes the job easier. I agree that we do have to take little steps, especially if we are children of God. A baby doesn't learn to walk by first running. We can take comfort in knowing that we have a Heavenly Father and Mother who can catch us if we happen to fall along the way. A big component to why people procrastinate is fear of failure. If we allow God to come with us on the journey, we don’t need to fear failing. This is what taking a leap of faith is all about.
4. Think guilt-free. Are there are any sins obstructing your path? Remember, there is nothing that a good Confession cannot take care of. The best way to have an open heart to God’s voice is to clean that heart of any junk that may have accumulated.
5. Give God the credit. Remember, humility is not putting oneself down. It is realizing who you are in light of God’s creation. Praise God for whatever the result might be. In everything do your best with whatever grace is given to you. Be at peace in leaving the outcome to God. Even if that outcome on the surface appears to be less than optimal.
Surely, I wait for the LORD; who bends down to me and hears my cry… Blessed the man who sets his security in the LORD, who turns not to the arrogant or to those who stray after falsehood.You, yes You, O LORD, my God, have done many wondrous deeds! And in your plans for us there is none to equal you. (Psalms 40:2, 5-6).