I don’t mean to be grim or morbid, but today’s subject is DEADLY serious. Imagine being in a graveyard, examining a gravestone. Despite being covered with moss, you can read the inscription. It says, “Procrastination is the grave where your dreams, aspirations, and hopes lie.” Is that where you want you dreams to end up? Buried? Aborted? Each time we put off doing what we wish to accomplish, each time we procrastinate, we bury our dreams. Or, as Victor Kiam said, “Procrastination is opportunity’s natural assassin.”
Although it’s not something we like to do, occasionally we should reflect on our mortality. We need to remember that we will die. For when we do so, it will be clear that the time to realize our dreams, the time to act, is now, not some vague date in the future. Why do we complain that life is too short and then throw away pieces of it by procrastinating? Why have we been so slow to learn? After all, 2,000 years ago, Emperor Nero’s adviser, Seneca The Younger taught, “We all sorely complain of the shortness of time, and yet have much more than we know what to do with. Our lives are either spent in doing nothing at all, or in doing nothing to the purpose, or in doing nothing that we ought to do. We are always complaining that our days are few, and acting as though there would be no end of them.”
Why do we procrastinate? One reason is an incorrect way of viewing life, a false perspective. We not only create the words we use, but later allow those words to create our perspective. Take the word “work,” for example. Its connotation is negative. We don’t think of it as a gift, but as punishment from God (Genesis 3:17). It is something unpleasant and to be avoided. Therefore, we put off doing it.
Although we may talk about “going to work,” can you imagine Picasso, Michelangelo, or Mozart saying the same thing? They may have spoken about creating art, but never of working. How can doing what you love be considered work? If we realize that we are artists and the work we do is the medium we use to create our masterpiece, we too can come to love what we do.
Another major reason for procrastination is the feeling of being overwhelmed. The task just seems to be too much to handle. But if we remember that a 1,000 mile trek begins with a single step, we will have the courage to begin. So, regardless how big your dream may be, if you break it down into small tasks, you will be able to accomplish it, one step at a time.
Fear of failure is another reason why people procrastinate. For instance, suppose someone dreams of writing a book. As long as they plan to write it “someday” in the future, they can brag about it. But what if they start and finish the project, and there are no buyers? Ugh! They’ll be a failure! Or will they be? How can they be a failure if they learn something from their mistake? Don’t let fear stop you, for as David J. Schwartz writes, “To fight fear, act. To increase fear — wait, put it off, postpone.”
Human nature also plays a role in procrastination, for we naturally avoid pain and are drawn to pleasure. So if we view our chore as a PAIN in the neck and watching TV as a pleasure, we will likely postpone the chore and watch TV instead. But before we do so, it would be wise to consider what Edwin C. Bliss wrote: “. . . FCC Chairman Newton Minow referred to television as a ‘vast wasteland’ . . . and it conjures up . . . a landscape littered with countless ruins of unfulfilled plans, aborted ventures, unrealized dreams . . . of the viewers, who try to select the least tedious of several mediocre shows instead of turning the set off and doing something.”
Let’s not be like most people who sit around waiting for their ship to come in, only to discover it is a hardship. For as Abraham Lincoln said, “Things may come to those who wait, but only the things left by those who hustle.” If you still have problems with getting things done NOW, you may want to consider joining Procrastinators Anonymous (they’ve been around for years, but have never gotten around to having a meeting).