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How Procrastination Affects Our Spiritual Health

Ali Helmy | Apr 30, 2021

The views expressed in our content reflect individual perspectives and do not represent the official views of the Baha'i Faith.

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Ali Helmy | Apr 30, 2021

The views expressed in our content reflect individual perspectives and do not represent the official views of the Baha'i Faith.

Dread often serves as the impetus behind procrastination, because once we’re about to tackle a major task we’re daunted and frightened by the immensity of the load it entails. We all struggle with this habit.

When that happens, we magnify the task in our minds, thus evoking a sense of intimidation and dread. This vicious cycle takes a toll on our spiritual well-being.

RELATED: The Spiritual Underpinnings of Time Management

Procrastination doesn’t just affect our efficiency and productivity — it can also be corrosive to our spiritual health because it stands in stark contrast to important inner virtues and spiritual attributes. Baha’u’llah, the prophet and founder of the Baha'i Faith, warned us to “guard against idleness and sloth” in several of his writings. Procrastination is the opposite of determination, persistency, and a pursuit of excellence — all of which represent crucial human characteristics and inherently spiritual traits. 

The Baha'i teachings remind us that we all have an ultimate deadline which determines our destiny: death. Although we can sometimes skirt, avoid, or put off our school and/or work deadline deliverables, we cannot escape that death deadline, which determines our soul’s ultimate destiny. Moreover, Baha’u’llah proclaimed the following in his book “The Hidden Words”:

O Son of Being! Bring thyself to account each day ere thou art summoned to a reckoning; for death, unheralded, shall come upon thee and thou shalt be called to give account for thy deeds.

O My Servant! Free thyself from the fetters of this world, and loose thy soul from the prison of self. Seize thy chance, for it will come to thee no more.

These phrases and words — seize thy chance,” “come to thee no more,” and “unheralded” — are quite emphatic and evoke a dire sense of urgency. 

Those who procrastinate avoid a consistent practice of self-accountability. This then makes one gradually drift into a vicious cycle of guilt, mediocrity, and repeated procrastination, which is a recipe for disaster where progress is concerned. 

Throughout life we all face a series of deadlines in various aspects of our lives and circumstances, whether they are school projects, office work deliverables, paying our bills and satisfying our debts, and so forth. However, the grand finale of deadlines — death — creates the culmination of all our life’s work, and accounting for one’s actions daily can improve our conduct; help us acquire spiritual attributes; and lead to the rooting out of our bad habits. Weeding out procrastination from those habits can liberate a huge burden from off our shoulders, freeing us from the weight of accumulated responsibilities.

RELATED: Making the Most of Your Time

As a former procrastinator, I’ve learned a few skills, tips, and tricks that I’d love to share. 

First, it helps to understand that procrastination stems from intimidation. The task seems impossible to accomplish, so we put it off. 

How we see things determines our actions, so instead of trying to accomplish a massive task all at once, I recommend that breaking it down into much smaller steps helps to tackle the task on a daily basis. If we set up a timeline, and map out the steps it will take to accomplish the components of each task, we make it easier and much less stressful. By setting the bar low, we also lower the intimidation factor — which helps encourage a smooth, consistent pattern of work. 

This basic method of breaking large tasks into small, do-able chunks can help anyone conquer procrastination.

Other helpful techniques abound: “time boxing” and the Pomodoro principle, for example, each allocate limited amounts of predetermined time to each daily task. Both of these strategies are based on Parkinson’s law — the idea that work expands to fill the time allotted to it. 

Spiritually, these anti-procrastination tools all lead toward a single goal — making the most effective, healthy, and joyful use of the limited time we’ve each been given on this physical plane of existence. Every one of us has a certain lifespan we will inevitably receive, so, as Baha'u’llah wrote:  

If ye be seekers after this life and the vanities thereof, ye should have sought them while ye were still enclosed in your mothers' wombs, for at that time ye were continually approaching them, could ye but perceive it. Ye have, on the other hand, ever since ye were born and attained maturity, been all the while receding from the world and drawing closer to dust. Why, then, exhibit such greed in amassing the treasures of the earth, when your days are numbered and your chance is well-nigh lost? Will ye not, then, O heedless ones, shake off your slumber?

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