Patti Armstrong is an award-winning author and was the managing editor and co-author of Ascension Press’ bestselling Amazing Grace series. Her latest books are: Big Hearted: Inspiring Stories From Everyday Families and Dear God, You Can’t Be Serious. She has a B.A. in social work and an M.A. in public administration and worked in both those fields before staying home to work as a freelance writer. Patti and her husband live in North Dakota, where they are still raising the tail end of their 10 children.
Animals don’t procrastinate. They are totally here and now. Putting something off is uniquely human. It involves a conscience—knowing what we should be doing and not doing it. So does that make procrastination a sin? I think it can be if it’s a matter of failing to respond to what God asks of us.
As Catholics, we need to take care of business. That’s why sloth is one of the 7 deadly sins. We should relax now and then, but sloth is a matter of throwing our time away and neglecting to fulfill our God-given duties.
We can also use sloth to procrastinate with God. According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church (no. 2094) spiritual sloth is one of the ways that we can sin against God’s love. We do it through indifference, neglects, ingratitude (too lazy to be thankful to God), and lukewarmness (not considering that we should respond to divine love).
In some cases, procrastination is about failing to have a servant’s heart when someone has to keep asking us to do something that is our responsibility. Laziness is not always the problem either. I am frequently guilty of putting things off all the while being very busy. It’s about prioritizing and discerning what is most important to get done.
Sometimes we procrastinate because we are overwhelmed by the task. But doing nothing usually makes things worse. Taking the first step and starting with one small piece at least gets you started.
In the movie, The Little Red Wagon, the true story is told of how 7-year-old Zach Bonner became the youngest person ever to establish a non-profit foundation. He did it to relieve the suffering of the homeless; particularly children. Talk about an overwhelming problem! How could a little kid tackle such a thing?
He explained: “When your room gets messy and it becomes too big of a problem, you shut the door and ignore it,” Zach said in the movie. “But closing the door doesn’t make the problem go away. If you just get started with a little part, it does not seem so overwhelming and it begins to make a difference.” From there, he said we just keep taking the next little step. Zach kept moving forward. People responded and donations poured in to help relieve what most of us feel is a problem too big for one person to tackle.
Tips for Overcoming Procrastination
- Take the First Step. Follow Zach Bonner’s example by taking the first logical step even if you don’t have all the details worked out mentally.
- Be Realistic. Overestimating the number of tasks you can get done may be the problem. Sort out what you can and can’t do and then begin.
- Get help. Maybe it is too much for you to handle. If so, get assistance.
- Write lists. This helps for a number of reasons. 1) Visually shows what you need to do. 2) Helps prioritize. 3) Gives a concrete a reward crossing things off. 4) Helps to recognize how much I can and cannot do in a day. 5) The remaining items stay so there is still a plan to get them done.
- Reduce Your Standards. Some people want things done exactly right or to be able to finish it all at once or they don’t get started at all. For example: unless I can write for 2 hours, I’m not going to get started. Or: I don’t have time to clean the entire room, so I’m not going to bother starting until I have more time. Just do the best with the time you have.
- Don’t Let Fear of Failure Stop You. I often see people expecting a negative response from someone or thinking they can’t do something well so they drag their feet and don’t approach the person or task. Not even trying guarantees failure and it will be on your shoulders. Your job is to make your best effort. Then, the outcome is out of your hands.
- Start your day with prayer. Ask God for the direction and motivation you need.
- Ask your guardian angel for help.
- Examine your conscience nightly. Evaluate your day in view of what you feel God was asking you to do and go to confession regularly to receive the graces you need.
- Ask the Blessed Mother and saints for their prayers. They were humans that once lived in a world full of tasks to be done.
- Go to adoration. It clears the head, reduces anxiety caused by procrastination and helps make rest of our life more manageable.
In the end, it’s not about crossing items off a list and seeing how much we can get done in a day. It’s about doing the things God asks us to. At times, he might be telling us to stop working and go to sleep (something I need to keep in mind) or turn off the TV and interact with our family. Or, he could even be telling us to stop trying to do so much.