Procrastination and Productivity: Friends or Enemies?

God has been speaking to me a lot about being more strategic these last few weeks. This stemmed from a realisation that creation may have been borne out from chaos but creativity is not chaotic. It has borne fruit because I have become more streamlined in how I spend my time and what I decide to focus on, in essence it has made me more ‘on purpose’.

Take this week for example I started off with a list of 5 things which I wanted to accomplish and on Monday I managed to cross off one of the items that I didn’t think I would finish until Wednesday. I was chuffed, but truth be told by the end of the day I also knew that it was all about His Grace as that day had been a ‘Bad Body Day’ for me.

Tuesday saw me come up with an edgy formula (well I thought so anyway) for productivity to highlight my increased insight into the fact that being busy doesn’t equate to being productive:

PRODUCTIVITY = RESULTS + IMPACT + FULFILMENT

Being busy doesn’t equate to being productive, PRODUCTIVITY = RESULTS + IMPACT + FULFILMENT Click To Tweet

In order to be truly productive it isn’t enough to just complete a task e.g. write a book, that end product should also be of real use so that it has a positive impact on lives (yours or others) as well as bringing personal fulfillment. Anything else is just work right?

Armed with this “higher knowledge”, Tuesday saw me sit myself down to write another ebook. I knew why I wanted to write it, I even had a strategic reason for writing it, I knew the system I would use to write it to turn it around as quickly as possible and I wanted to write it but try as I might I couldn’t get into the flow. I was easily distracted and that frustrated me. I had been seeing a few discussions about procrastination on Facebook which got me thinking so I asked a few trusted people to pray for me and then decided to call it quits.

Wednesday morning I woke up bright-eyed and bushy tailed, with a spark inside of me that said, “NOW is the time for you to write”. This change had confirmed that something had happened between Tuesday and Wednesday and led me to ask myself the question, “is procrastination wrong? Does it ever serve a purpose?” I asked the same question in my Facebook group and was pleased and surprised by the discussion that burst forth from it and when I add this to other discussions I’ve been a part of this is what I have found.

procrastination creativity and productvity

No, procrastination isn’t bad or wrong, if anything it’s mans’ definition of procrastination which needs to be put under the microscope. I’m a psychology teacher, one of the areas I teach is ‘abnormal’ psychology or psychopathology, one of the things I know is that man has a way of pathologising almost anything they don’t want to be part of society. We have become so fast-paced and production orientated that anything that goes against this is seen as dysfunctional. Procrastination is undesirable and unwanted after all, why would you want to delay getting the job done? Why wouldn’t you want to finish xyz as quickly as possible so that you could relax, or even better start doing something else?

We have become so fast-paced and production orientated that anything else is dysfunctional. Click To Tweet

Procrastination literally means belonging to tomorrow. The Bible says that each day has its own evils (troubles, labour, misfortune) allocated to it (Matthew 6:34), so there’s no need to go borrowing more from the future. In fact across the FB groups most people tended to believe that ‘procrastination’ was actually functional in some way whether it was because:

  • it helped them plan and reflect around better solutions before starting,
  • conceptualise the kind of outcome they wanted to create,
  • understand and examine their own motives and feelings more or get more deeply connected and aligned.

Procrastination outside of these reasons could also be your soul’s way of delaying you until God provides you with exactly what you need to create. These ideas go in total opposition to the ‘don’t even think about it just do it’ camp, who would strongly advocate pushing past the resistance.

I want to look at this from a slightly different perspective now, from the perspective of productivity. The phrase “never put off until tomorrow what you can do today” is one of those musturbatory (read it carefully) sayings that often get people into trouble, make them feel frustrated, anxious or less than able in comparison to others. This quote may as well say, use all the hours, minutes and seconds in your day as much as possible, just cram it all in with stuff and you’ll feel like you’ve achieved a lot. Plus you know, the more you do today the less you have to do tomorrow right? Oh no, you need to do the same thing tomorrow as well if you really want maximum productivity. I’m getting dizzy just thinking about the endless cycle of work involved in adopting that LifeStyle, but that’s how most of us live and if we don’t we feel like were failing to do.

I think we have taken scriptures that say things like, “Do not boast about tomorrow, for you do not know what a day may bring” (Proverbs 27:1, ESV) and “a slack hand causes poverty, but the hand of the diligent makes rich” (Proverbs 10: 4, ESV) and turned them to justify our desire for more, more, more as quickly as possible. In fact the word productivity is an economic term closely linked to output and efficiency. No wonder procrastination is so frowned upon. But productivity actually comes from the word produce and produce means to bring forth, create, and bring into existence. To produce tells us so much more than productivity ever can, because in order to really create you need to bring something forth from within yourself and bring it into existence.

I If God had wanted to, He could have been über productive and created everything in a day, less than a day, but He didn’t. There was a time and a season for each creative activity and a time and a season for rest. And just have a good look at nature, would we call her lazy? A procrastinator? We can’t always see what is being produced but the quality of the fruit tells us that deep, rich and impactful work has been done. Sometimes when we get too caught up in how productive we can be we actually miss the amazing things that God wants us to create.

What’s your take on this?

Linking up with Grace and Truth 

5 Replies to “Procrastination and Productivity: Friends or Enemies?”

  1. Thanks for an inspirational article! For Christians, we may want to ‘strategically delay’ activity, to think, pause, reflect, draw inspiration, pray as part of the process of asking the Lord for direction before we go on to the ‘next blast of productive activities’. Therefore for a maturing and diligent Christians in the Lord, procrastination may not be ‘procrastination’ as the world practices it. For those in Christ, ‘Strategic procrastination or delay’ can be a means to wait on God for inspiration, strength, courage and divine help before we plunge back into work mode. This means we get a mental, emotional and physical rest and get to appreciate the productiveness that we have achieved. During this time The Lord can advise us on how we can do things better and how we can do things to a greater degree of excellence! I think that is why so many unbelievers are either ‘burnt out’ or are highly productive but with no quality displayed in their productivity because their procrastination may nor serve any purpose and there is no reliance on God within an unbeliever’s period of procrastination.

    • That’s a really interesting way of looking at in Anna – thank you for sharing 🙂 Although I find that Christians aren’t immune to being/getting burnt out either – I think it depends less on your faith and more on whether you are connected to God enough to trust what your heart is saying to you.

      I am finding that the most resistance is often found in those with the most rigid beliefs and philosophies regardless of their faith.

  2. ‘People seem to always have time to do the things they enjoy, but never have the time for the things they don’t enjoy.’

    How true that is for most. NO ENJOYMENT, LITTLE PRODUCTION and then delay, or as you so wisely put it, PROCRASTINATION.

    Excellent thoughts here, Florence!

  3. I’m convinced that we make time for what we think is important, so if we don’t make time for prayer, Bible reading, christian fellowship, or just priorities at home or work, then deep down we don’t really believe they are important. However, I do believe that we need to schedule in rest… many times we are so over committed and over worked that we have no time to breathe and be still. and if we cannot do that, then we often will miss the quiet voice of God. Thanks Florence! Nice to read your posts again!

  4. I am always accused of filling up my time. Every time I remove something from my to do list I seem to add two more. I get so busy that I feel like I accomplish very little. Stretching myself so thin that very few get my full attention. We are not made to be so busy, we are made to serve but not when it is a disservice to ourselves. Slowing down to listen is something I am learning to do.

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