Someone once suggested a test to determine whether I’m a procrastinator, but I never got around to taking it. As someone has wisely said, why do today what you can put off until tomorrow, right?
Actually, procrastinator sounds like something you should get paid for, so I suspect most of us are really amateur-crastinators. But that doesn’t mean we’re not good at it.
Procrastination is practically required to write professionally. Without much effort, we can dream up a limitless variety of excuses for not diving into the demanding, all-consuming task of writing: Getting just one more cup of coffee. Emptying the dishwasher (if you have a home office). Reading the morning newspaper, or visiting favorite websites. Calling a friend you haven’t talked with in months. Changing a light bulb. The list goes on.
Author Philip Yancey summed up the writer’s perspective concisely: “I hate to write…but I love to have written!” I can relate – been there, done that.
But procrastination isn’t exclusive to wordsmiths. Everyone does it: Putting off paying the bills; delaying necessary home repairs; not sending that letter or making that phone call; choosing an hour of TV over finishing a class assignment. In fact, I thought about writing this post some time ago – I’m just now getting around to it.
Live broadcasts on TV and radio usually have five to seven-second delays to avoid objectionable material. Sometimes it seems we operate our lives on a 30-minute, or even 30-day delay. “I’ll do it – in just a few minutes!” Anything to avoid the inevitable.
Sometimes procrastination is understandable – trying to forestall the unpleasant or undesirable as long as possible. But often procrastination is just a sophisticated synonym for laziness. And laziness can be costly, in more ways than one.
Proverbs 10:5 observes, “He who gathers crops in summer is a wise son, but he who sleeps during harvest is a disgraceful son.” Whether as part of a family or a staff at work, we’re usually members of a team. And the team’s success depends on the contributions of every member. When we procrastinate, failing to do our part, everyone suffers.
The road to failure is often paved with good intentions. Procrastination can consist of an abundance of talking about what we intend to do, accompanied by grandiose dreams about our desired outcome. But mere talk without action can sound the death knell for our plans. As Proverbs 14:23 states, “All hard work brings a profit, but mere talk leads only to poverty.”
Procrastination can also squander unique, once-in-a-lifetime opportunities that come our way. We might receive multiple chances to pursue our hopes and dreams, but sometimes opportunity knocks but once. If we’re not prompt in answering the door, it might depart, never to return. As Proverbs 24:33-34 warns, “A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest – and poverty will come to you like a bandit and scarcity like an armed man.”
With that in mind, could procrastination be considered a crime? Businessman Victor Kiam said, “Procrastination is opportunity’s assassin.” And British poet Edward Young offered this view: “Procrastination is the thief of time.” If accused of procrastinating, would a jury of your peers convict you?
To be fair, there’s also a positive side to procrastination. It’s not always a bad thing, as writer Hilary Mantel has suggested: “Imagination only comes when you privilege the subconscious, when you make delay and procrastination work for you.” So, how can we discern between procrastination that’s bordering on the criminal, sapping our productivity, and procrastination that’s useful, preparing and positioning us for greater achievements in the future?
I’ll have to get back to you on that. Need to think about it. But I’ll let you know, real soon. I promise.
Robert J. Tamasy is a veteran journalist, a former newspaper editor and magazine editor. He is presently vice president of communications for Leaders Legacy, Inc., a non-profit focused on mentoring and coaching business and professional leaders. Bob has written hundreds of magazine articles, and has authored, co-authored and edited more than 15 books. These include “Tufting Legacies,” “The Heart of Mentoring,” “Business at Its Best,” and “Pursuing Life With a Shepherd’s Heart.” He edits a weekly business meditation, “Monday Manna,” which is translated into more than 20 languages and distributed via email around the world by CBMC International. He also posts regularly on two blogs, www.bobtamasy.blogspot.com, and www.bobtamasy.wordpress.com. He can be emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org.