Not quite sure who, but someone once said, “Tomorrow is the only day on the devil’s calendar.” I disagree actually because the Devil can also destroy our souls by making us look back with despair at all our yesterdays. But it’s certainly true that many, many souls are in hell because they left a convicting Gospel sermon saying,”Tomorrow. Tomorrow.” Felix is in very bad and very large company (Acts 24:25).And it’s not just Christians who see the devastating effects of procrastination (derived from a Latin word meaning “to put off for tomorrow”). Numerous scholars have contributed to a recent book about it called The Thief of Time. At $55 it probably won’t be near the top of your book-buying priorities. But The New Yorker has done us a favor with an extensive review. As that review is rather lengthy, here’s a summary to help us consider our own spiritual procrastination, and maybe even provide some sermon material as we address the multitudes whose response to every sermon is, “Tomorrow.” 1. Procrastination is painful. We all have accusing items on our to-do list that have been gathering dust and gnawing at our consciences for weeks and even months. Why do we avoid unpleasant tasks when the act of avoidance only increases our discomfort. 2. It is costly. Among examples quoted of loss through procrastination is Alex Taylor’s recent history of G.M., “Sixty to Zero,” in which he highlights how key executives delayed and delayed inevitable decisions. One of his key conclusions is “Procrastination doesn’t pay.” 3. It is irrational. Piers Steel defines procrastination as willingly deferring something even though you expect the delay to make you worse off. Samuel Johnson said: “I could not forbear to reproach myself for having so long neglected what was unavoidably to be done, and of which every moment’s idleness increased the difficulty.”
4. It thrives in vagueness. David Allen (of “Get things done” fame) insists on clear and concrete task lists. He says, “the vaguer the task, or the more abstract the thinking it requires, the less likely you are to finish it.” 5. It feeds on perfectionism. Procrastinators are always waiting for the perfect time. The New Yorker highlights General McClellan’s excessive planning and preparation which so infuriated President Lincoln during the Civil War. He was always asking for more troops and more weapons and more time to plan the ideal battle. 6. It picks the easy route. In an experiment, “people were asked to pick one movie to watch that night and one to watch at a later date. Not surprisingly, for the movie they wanted to watch immediately, people tended to pick lowbrow comedies and blockbusters, but when asked what movie they wanted to watch later they were more likely to pick serious, important films. The problem, of course, is that when the time comes to watch the serious movie, another frothy one will often seem more appealing.” 7. It often arises when we have too much to do. When we are overwhelmed with to-dos we often feel there is no single to-do worth doing. 8. It is increasing. “According to Piers Steel, a business professor at the University of Calgary, the percentage of people who admitted to difficulties with procrastination quadrupled between 1978 and 2002. In that light, it’s possible to see procrastination as the quintessential modern problem.” Read the whole article here. Or you could do it tomorrow.