Grace to Get Started (2/3)

This is the second in a set of 3 posts on how we can depend on grace constantly. Previously, I wrote about building habits of dependence. In this post, I want to talk about the grace to get started — how God’s grace can help us confront the heart issues behind procrastination.

For an overview of the larger series, see the road map introduction post

Ah, the age-old problem of procrastination: we know what we need to do and have the time to do it (or at least get started). We tell ourselves we’re going to finish such and such task by such and such time. And then we blink and find ourselves at the end of the day, having squandered away precious hours on distraction and trivialities.

Why do we procrastinate? The most common explanation is that we’re lazy and lack discipline. The solution that follows is we simply need to try harder, discipline our minds, and focus. While this explanation accounts for part of our problem, it doesn’t tell the whole story.

In her New York Times’ article, titled “Why You Procrastinate (It Has Nothing to Do With Self-Control)”, author, Charlotte Lieberman, writes:

“Procrastination isn’t a unique character flaw or a mysterious curse on your ability to manage time, but a way of coping with challenging emotions and negative moods induced by certain tasks — boredom, anxiety, insecurity, frustration, resentment, self-doubt and beyond.”

This quote resonated with me. Yes, laziness and lack of discipline are certainly struggles of mine, but the real struggle is learning to confronting the challenging emotions and negative moods she describes. I’ve returned often to another article, entitled “The Complicated Lives of Lazy Boys”, which delves into how these difficult emotions can plunge young men, in particular, into long cycles of laziness and procrastination.

These articles remind us that procrastination can be a complex heart issue. What we feel about a task often points to more deeply-rooted fears about the future, and frustrations and insecurities about ourselves.

And if procrastination is a heart issue, we should not take a brute-force willpower approach. Rather, we should ask God for strengthening grace.

How Can We Rely on Grace To Help Us Get Started?

This is far from exhaustive, but here are 4 steps that make sense to me.

#1: Catch Yourself

The first step is learning to realize when we’re procrastinating. Many of us have bad habits established by years of procrastination. We turn to these habitual coping mechanisms without thinking and by the time we come to our senses, it’s too late.

We need to better understand our patterns of procrastination: the excuses we make, the distractions we turn to, and the common reasons why we distract ourselves. So, when we feel our focus teetering, we can realize what is happening and catch ourselves before bad habits take over.

#2: Clarify Negative Emotions and Moods

The second step is clarify why we find certain tasks “aversive” — that is, why they cause a strong dislike or disinclination in us; a visceral negative response.

Instead of letting feelings of restlessness or anxiety hover over you unexplained, try articulating exactly why you want to procrastinate in a journal or a note-taking app.

Sometimes the reason will be simple: “I don’t want to do this assignment because it’s boring and tedious.” Other times, the truth will cut deeper: “I don’t want to face this responsibility, because everyone else seems like they’ve figured life out, but I feel incompetent and immature.” Whatever the reason, by putting negative feelings into words, we bring them into the light.

#3: Commit Struggles to God and Ask for His Help

Once these emotions are out in the open, we can bring them to God.

Say a short prayer confessing how you’re struggling and ask for strength to focus. Remind yourself of simple truths, like how Christ loves us, has promised to never forsake us, and is with us even in moments like these. Here is where it is helpful to have established habits of dependence, so you can draw on fresh manna from your time spent with God.

#4: Get Started with Small Steps

Then, get started. Getting started is the hardest part. But once you’re able to get over the initial hump, focusing becomes easier. You’re able to build momentum as you slowly make progress.

A helpful strategy: try the Pomodoro technique. Write down a manageable task for a 25 minute session, begin, rest, and repeat. Prioritize process over results. You don’t have to face the stress of finishing everything; just focus on a single step.

A word of caution: be vigilant about sticking to your allotted break time. I’ve found when I’m fatigued after a Pomodoro session, breaks are tempting windows to fall back into the cycle of procrastination. If you sense that temptation, start back from step #1.

Lastly, it’s helpful to have a system to organize your work and break it down into manageable chunks. So when you’re ready to get started, you won’t have to waste time or energy figuring out what to do.

I hope this was insightful and gave you some practical strategies for battling procrastination with God’s help. Until next time!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s