A spiritual solution to procrastination
Ah, the final few weeks of summer. Time to soak in that last little bit of sun, hang out with friends … and finish the 300 pages of summer reading that you procrastinated reading until now.
From the way a lot of my friends talk, you’d think procrastination was a normal part of high school. One even says she can’t get things done unless she’s totally down to the wire because she “needs the adrenaline rush” to power through.
Here’s one idea for dealing with procrastination: Ask God for help.
We’ve all had things that we’ve put off because we didn’t feel inspired, weren’t in the mood, or we just wanted to do something else. And we probably all know the feeling of doing everything but the thing we’re supposed to be doing.
At some point, though, you have to get out of that place of avoidance. But how? In my experience, trying to will my way out of that I-just-don’t-want-to-do-it feeling doesn’t work too well. And if procrastination is a serious habit, even your own best efforts to jump-start yourself on a paper or project might not be very effective.
So what do you think? Is there a spiritual solution to procrastination?
Yes. In fact, there are several I’ve found helpful in getting unstuck and feeling motivated.
Here’s a simple one: Ask God for help. I find it so reassuring to know that there’s no mistake we’ve ever made, no misstep we’ve ever taken, or any resistance to doing what we need to do, that can ever remove us from God’s care. It may not always feel that way, but the moment we’re willing to admit that we need help—and are truly open to receiving it—the right ideas from God are there to move us forward.
Maybe the right idea looks like a topic for your essay—the one you’ve been stalling on writing because you couldn’t figure out what to write about. Or maybe it’s a feeling of peace that removes the stress of a time crunch. Sometimes, the answer to our prayers can be surprising—like the time I was struggling to find motivation to finish reading a book I really hated. The idea that came to me as I prayed was to look for things to love about what I was doing. That love really propelled me forward.
Here’s another thing that’s helped me deal with procrastination: asking God to help me see myself the way He sees me. God doesn’t see any of us as lazy, distracted, selfish, or careless. God sees only what He made—a creation that expresses His nature. Man made in His likeness. That’s you! Disciplined, productive, joyful, persistent. You express all these qualities and more because you’re God’s image.
Sometimes I find it strengthening to specifically stand up to the thoughts that say I’m anything but God’s likeness. I say no to those suggestions and affirm the fact that I do include goodness, discipline, and purpose. I pray to feel with more conviction that I am willing to do what’s right because God is causing that willingness in me.
Here’s another idea that’s been useful: Asking God to help me see myself the way He sees me.
And then I get going! Because prayer isn’t just about saying some comforting things to ourselves, but about allowing our thoughts—and by extension, our actions—to be transformed as a result of understanding something more about God and His creation. When we truly see ourselves as God’s sons and daughters, we have to act that way, and know that we can.
Over time, it’s really been my love for God that’s become the biggest motivating factor in my life, and the best defense against procrastination. When you love someone with your whole heart, you’d do anything for them, right? And that love motivates you—spurs you into action, carries you through the hard parts, and probably even helps you feel joyful about whatever you’re doing.
It’s the same with loving God. When you’re loving God that much, you want to do whatever serving God looks like in that moment. Maybe loving God doesn’t feel very compelling in comparison to the pull of YouTube or social media or chatting with friends. So start small. Ask God for help. Pray to know yourself the way He knows you. Cultivate your love for Him until it takes precedence over everything else. That’s when you’ll find yourself free from the tendency to procrastinate—yes, even when it comes to finishing that summer reading.