The illness that wastes time is procrastination

Published 6:00 am Thursday, February 21, 2019

How many times in our lives do we experience the malady called “Procrastination?” You know the illness that makes you say, “I will put off studying for the final exam until the final day!”  It is a terrible ailment that does not discriminate according to age, gender, or race.  We all experience it and its consequences.

Procrastination occurs when we delay what we need to do today until some unknown tomorrow not yet marked on a calendar in our minds.  A vague day we have assigned to complete a task we either are too lazy or not focused enough to do, afraid to tackle, or are overwhelmed by.

There are many causes for procrastination, and no pill is yet available for a cure.  However, procrastination excuses are as common as a cold.  But if we dig a bit deeper, we find the reason most of us develop the delay malaise is because of perfectionism, fear of making a mistake, fear of the unknown, lack of motivation, low energy, and not enough belief in our own capabilities.

How many folks do we know that will not tackle a project unless they can do it perfectly?  Even when I think I have cleaned my house to perfection, I will later find a mess I missed.  Those who use perfectionism as an excuse evidently forgot that they still got an F when they didn’t turn in their imperfect homework.

We all have a fear of making mistakes, but it should not stop us from pursuing or developing our talents.  I am sure the Wright Brothers, Alexander Graham Bell, and Thomas Edison created a few duds before they came up with a plane that would fly, a phone that would ring, or a bulb that would light our way. What if their fear of making a mistake prohibited them from trying?

Fear of the unknown is so daunting that even when we know what we need to do, we might delay until it is detrimental to ourselves.  I know many who have ignored an early warning sign regarding their health and did not consult a doctor.  When they eventually became so ill, they put not only themselves but their families in dire situations.  Perhaps if they had addressed the symptoms earlier, their lives would not be lost or changed because of their fear of the unknown.  This is when putting off a difficult decision can kill, not only ourselves physically, but our dreams.

Lack of motivation and low energy has to do with our feelings about ourselves.  I have off and on bouts with anxiety. I try to exercise, eat mostly correct, and pray. I asked my physician during my physical exam this year what I should do other than taking medicine.

“Why don’t you try meditation?”

She did not see me slap myself in the head because my husband had been telling me to try meditation for years!  I just kept putting it off because I wasn’t motivated to do it. Sometimes it takes a doctor to figure out why we lack motivation or energy, and the answers can be complicated.  However, don’t we complicate our lives more when we delay ways to improve our days?

The malady of procrastination can cause governments to fail, folks to die, and families to fall apart. Go no further than looking at our congress and the failure to tackle and delay tough issues like immigration, health care reform, and infrastructure.  Now we are in a costly crisis with all three.

When my son was faced with his own mortality after a horrific accident, he quickly stated his wishes. He was trying to tell me all the things he meant to do and didn’t have a chance to accomplish. Once he pulled through and went on to live his life, I often thought how when we are faced with an end, we want to return to the beginning and complete those dreams we delayed.  Regret is the unfortunate scar the illness of procrastination can leave.

It has been said that idle hands are the devil’s workshop. I believe that is true. I may make a mess of what my hands might do, but I sure am not going to let them sit in my lap! What a waste of capable, brown-spotted, cracked nails, and short fingers that would be, because there are days to live that I don’t want to waste.  Why put off until a non-guaranteed tomorrow what God intended me to do today?

Now, I need to listen to my own advice, use my hands and find that information on meditation buried somewhere under the pile of papers on my desk marked “To do’s.”

“Procrastination is the grave in which opportunity is buried.”  Author unknown.