Q&A: Questions and Answers


Answers are intended for help and perspective, not as pronouncements of Church doctrine.

I have a real problem with procrastination. I leave assignments unfinished, goals unmet, and promises unkept just because I don’t start things on time. I don’t mean to let people down. I just can’t seem to make myself get going. What can I do?

New Era

It’s Saturday night and you have a talk to give in sacrament meeting the next morning. You haven’t picked a topic yet.

You have a ten-page term paper due on Friday. It’s 8:00 P.M. Thursday and you are still taking notes at the library.

At 7:00 A.M. Monday morning you’re pulling your basketball uniform out of the dirty clothes basket. You have 15 minutes to wash and dry it before you have to leave for school.

You hate feeling rushed all the time. And leaders and teachers get angry with you for not completing assignments or turning them in late. You say, “I just don’t have time to get things done.” Actually, you do have the time, but you intentionally put them off.

Procrastination is a habit. But it’s a habit that can be broken. First of all you have to make a decision to CHANGE! Next, take the problem to your Heavenly Father. Through sincere prayer he’ll give you the guidance and support you’ll need to make the change. Then back up your prayers with some serious action.

Here are a few suggestions that you might find helpful:

  • Make a daily list of projects and check them off as you finish each one. Carrying a small calendar with you might help.

  • Start with your most difficult task, or the one you enjoy the least. The rest of your work will seem easy by comparison.

  • Break down big and intimidating projects into smaller ones. Then do each one step by step.

  • Reward yourself after an accomplishment. Plan your reward before you start the project. For example, after doing your math homework, treat yourself to something you want to do.

  • Make a game of it. When you have to do something unpleasant, make a deal with yourself. Say, “I’ll work as hard as I can for 20 minutes.” It’s amazing how fast you can get your bedroom cleaned when you work hard for a short time instead of messing around at it.

  • Remove distractions from your work place. Keep food, TV, magazines, telephone, and other temptations out of your way. You can get a lot done if you spend a short time on a task with good concentration.

  • Lots of people procrastinate because of the fear of failure. Make a conscious effort to realize that your paper, project, or whatever won’t be perfect. It is often more important to meet deadlines and follow through on time than to redo something over and over. Get going and get it done on time!

  • Set realistic goals, but don’t set them in concrete. Stay flexible.

  • Avoid overcommitment. Don’t say yes to someone’s request when you have no intention of following through. Then if you say yes, do everything possible to keep your promise.

  • Prioritize and pace yourself.

  • It’s not good to plan every minute of every day. Allow yourself free time and have some fun, too.

Make the commitment to change your habit of procrastination. The Apostle Paul counseled, “Whatsoever ye do, do it heartily” (Col. 3:23). Put enthusiasm into the many tasks you have to face and carry them out with a happy attitude. By abolishing the habit of procrastination you will find that you are accomplishing much more in life with much less effort. And the blessings will begin to multiply.

Readers

I sometimes put things off until it’s too late, like cleaning my room. But I found that if I do it right then, it’s a lot easier. Be careful about what promises you make. Unmet goals—that’s a hard one. You could make just a couple. Start with one and do your best job and then start on the next one.

Suzie Madsen, 13 Redwood Valley, California

If I knew something was due, I would worry about it until the last night and then do it. Pretty soon I found out I could have had my project done ten times in all the time I worried about it. Start out with small goals and work up to large ones.

Heather Solomon, 13 Farmington, Utah

I used to procrastinate completing assignments and doing my chores. If I did my chores I could go to youth activities, and I was afraid of my peers, all because I didn’t feel perfect enough. I’d put off assignments and duties in church callings because everyone would start noticing me and I was afraid of making a mistake. Being afraid and procrastinating let others down.

Here is plan that has worked for me:

  1. 1)

    Make a list of all the things you put off.

  2. 2)

    Analyze each responsibility to find out just what it is that makes you afraid and what would make you feel better about it.

  3. 3)

    Make realistic goals.

  4. 4)

    Reward yourself.

Carole Evensen, 22 Norfolk, Virginia

I found that my procrastination began when I started saying, “I’ve got enough time to do that.” Then I didn’t start right away and ran out of time. So now, whenever this phrase comes to mind, I just go ahead and start preparing whatever was assigned or promised. Plan out the things you have committed to do and just do them.

Elder Sanders, 20 Arkansas Little Rock Mission

If you need to do something, don’t look at it as a giant project or you will not feel like starting it. Instead, divide the project into several steps. Then do the steps one by one.

Whenever you have made a promise, remind yourself of the way the person you made the promise to would feel if you didn’t keep the promise.

Once you start completing things and keeping promises, you will feel lots better about yourself and other people will trust you more.

Tonja Bowen, 12 Grand Junction, Colorado

I have found that procrastination is real habit forming and gets easier the more we do it. I decided I hated the feeling of not getting things done. I went to my school teachers and asked them for upcoming assignments that I could start on, enabling me to complete them on time. I found that I could accomplish anything I put my mind to as long as I allowed enough time.

Elder Nathan Hicks, 20 Texas Dallas Mission

Don’t make so many promises you can’t keep them all. Also, plan on some relaxation time. Life can be busy and crazy, but it doesn’t have to be. Use your time wisely. Don’t forget to pray.

Sarah Davis, 14 Centerville, Utah

Stick to new ideas and plans which will help you. By writing down my schedule for each day, it helped me complete each listed activity. Each day I would work a little on goals and assignments, and eventually they were accomplished without me having to break my back. Call upon your friends, parents, teachers, and your Heavenly Father to help you.

Ariel Eileen Smith, 15 Danville, California

I used to think I was an incurable procrastinator. Finally, things got so backed up that it was impossible, so I went to a teacher. We set up a program that would severely affect my grade if I didn’t keep up with it. I set deadlines for small portions of big assignments to force myself to start working on them before the night before they were due. Luckily for me, it worked.

I’m still working on it, but look, I got this letter mailed in on time!

Tami Anderson, 16 Roanoke, Virginia

I decided to try doing what my dad told me to try. Each day write down the ten most important things you need to do that day. Then number them in the order they need to be done. Check them off as you finish them.

Juanita Swain, 14 Vernal, Utah

If you have a lot of things you have to do at one time, you could write a timetable for all your activities. It is important to work on them every day or you may lose interest. If you are having a lot of trouble with an assignment, ask a friend or a brother or sister for help.

John Munro, 12 Auckland, New Zealand

With projects, assignments, or goals, start them on time so that you can finish on time.

Tara Manson, 14 Auckland, New Zealand

[photo] Photography by Craig J. Moyer