I knew I had to begin my tafseer (explanation of the glorious Quran) at least a month before Ramadan started so that I could comprehend it without having to rush through it before Ramadan ended, because completing the Quran in Ramadan has many virtues and brings a sense of accomplishment and excitement, alhamdulillah.
However, this year I kept on procrastinating, delaying and thinking there was still time until Ramadan finally arrived. Instead of doing what I was supposed to do I kept fiddling with miscellaneous things that I presumed needed my immediate attention.
We are all acquainted with the procrastination portent. We delay, then panic and when it’s too late, wish we’d started earlier. Habitual procrastination may lead to serious consequences such as guilt, stress, anxiety, gaining a bad reputation with people we are dealing with, losing the ambition to succeed, a lack of a sense of accomplishment or loss of self-confidence. Worst of all, it deprives us of numerous opportunities to collect good deeds during our time in this world because we are too busy struggling to cope with basic chores, thus jeopardizing our position in the next one. “Until, when death comes to one of them, he says, “My Lord! Send me back so that I may do good in that which I have left behind.” (Quran 23:99-100).
So here are a few tips that might help all of us, inshaAllah, to stop being chronic procrastinators who squander their time in this vicious cycle of delaying important tasks and facing work only when it’s unavoidable.
Pure intentions – Like with everything we do, this is the first step to success. Have sincere intentions to be productive and ask for Allah’s help against procrastination. A beautiful masnoon dua against laziness can be recited regularly to combat procrastination. “O Allah! I seek Your protection from anxiety and grief, from incapacity and laziness, from stinginess and cowardice, and from the burden of debt and domination of people.” (Bukhari)
Checklist of ignored tasks – Make a clever checklist by including only the things that you’ve been avoiding, not the ones you know you’ll do anyway, then set deadlines. Break the task down into small chunks to avoid the feelings of stress and anxiety. Once you start to enjoy small accomplishments, you’re more likely to finish. Come up with a consequence that will prevent you from avoiding the task. For example, if you are planning to organise your kitchen break the task into smaller chores and plan to do one cabinet or one section each day.
Remove distractions – Remove all distractions like your phone, TV, magazines etc. during the time that you have set for a particular job. Now go into a work frenzy during this time. Force yourself to work productively for ten minutes. Chances are, you’ll get into a groove and keep working even after the ten minutes are over.
Focus on the end result – We only tend to see the massive list of things to do, rather than the anxiety-free feeling of accomplishment at having finished them. As you work, focus on the end result. This will help you stay focused on the task and work towards your goal efficiently.
Finish the hardest task first – Finishing the hardest thing on your list first will make you feel extra productive and give you the boost to do other things you’ve been delaying.
Have timed breaks – Take short and well-timed breaks between tasks that you’ve been putting off. Time your breaks and get back to work as soon as your break ends and don’t linger on your phone or in any other indulgence after that. Once you get a portion of work done you will feel the drive to complete the rest of it as well.
Work under pressure – Many people say that they work best under pressure. Therefore, if a task does not have a deadline, have your own deadline and share it with others to increase the pressure on yourself to complete the task on time.
Be around productive people – Spend time with people who inspire you to be more productive, especially those who have similar goals to you. People influence our behaviour, and our behaviour eventually determines our habits.
Seek out successful people – Find people who have produced an outcome. Seeing a living example of someone who has accomplished what you are trying to achieve will motivate you to get on with the task and will remind you that the task is manageable and the goal is achievable.
Dispel laziness – You might do everything mentioned in this article. You can do all the organising, planning and theorising, but if at the end of it all you are too lazy to carry on at the pace you have set for yourself, not much can be achieved. The best way to combat laziness is to sleep early at night and start early in the morning. No sleep is as restful as that of the night, and due to our Prophet’s dua, Allah has put barakah in the morning hours for his ummah.
Procrastination has a negative effect on our overall lifestyle and has greater implications than we may realise. Instead of procrastinating to address procrastination, we need to combat it and nip the habit in the bud.
However, like everything else we do, we need to believe and understand that no khair can be achieved without the help and guidance from Allah (subhanahu wa ta’ala). Therefore, after doing our bit we need to rely on Allah (subhanahu wa ta’ala) to put barakah in our time and our endeavours.
It is one of the strategies of Shaitan to deprive us of receiving khair. One of the early scholars said, “Beware of procrastinating. It is the greatest of the soldiers of Shaitan.” May Allah (subhanahu wa ta’ala) protect us from procrastinating over performing good deeds, ameen.