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Iíll Do It in a Minute . . .

Putting things off

by Claire Law

Suitable for Whole School (Sec)


To consider the meaning of procrastination and how we can overcome it.

Preparation and materials


  1. Have Slide 1 showing as the students enter.

    Have you ever put off doing something that you don’t want to do, but know that you probably should? Let’s face it: we’ve all done this from time to time!

    Put your hand up if you’ve ever used any of the following phrases to buy yourself a bit more time because you’ve not managed to get started on something, or finish off something in time.

    Show Slide 2: ‘I’ll do it later . . .’

    Show Slide 3: ‘I was going to get started, but I decided to do ______ first.’

    Somehow, everything else seems more interesting or more urgent than actually getting down to what we need to do.

    Show Slide 4: ‘Just coming . . . I’ll be there in a mo . . .’

    How about this one? I know plenty of teenagers who say this to delay ending their Xbox game!

    Show Slide 5: ‘I don’t have my homework because the dog ate it. I’ll have it for tomorrow, I promise!’

    I wonder if anyone will admit to this one!

  2. All of these phrases are signs that we are procrastinating. Procrastination is when we avoid or put off doing a task that needs to be accomplished by a certain deadline. It can involve avoiding getting started or avoiding finishing a particular task. Procrastination is a common human experience, and people often report procrastination in relation to things they’d rather avoid, such as:

    - completing chores
    - attending medical appointments
    - submitting an essay, assignment or some homework
    - having a difficult conversation with a friend or family member

  3. Procrastination is not the same as being lazy. It is an active process: we choose to do something else instead of the task that we know we should be doing. In contrast, laziness suggests apathy, inactivity and an unwillingness to act.

  4. Procrastination can seem like a negative trait, in that it prevents us from being productive and can lead to feelings of failure, inadequacy and guilt. 

    However, it can be a useful short-term strategy if we consider what our desire for procrastination might be revealing to us. Procrastination can also be considered a wise response to certain demands that could present risky or negative outcomes or require waiting for new information to arrive.

    To illustrate this, let’s see what we can learn about procrastination from Bart Simpson! In this short video, Bart demonstrates developed procrastination skills.

    Show the YouTube video ‘Procrastination’
     from the beginning until 0.57 minutes.

  5. Ask the following questions. You may wish to ask students to discuss them in groups.

    - How did Bart procrastinate? (Answer: he came up with multiple excuses – all lies, of course – relating to various medical conditions and ailments.)  
    - Why did Bart procrastinate? (Answer: he tried to buy time and delay the test because he didn’t want to do it. By saying he was ill, he at least put off the test for a while. Unfortunately for Bart, his teacher was persistent and didn’t forget about the test! Hard luck, Bart!)
    - How might procrastination have been useful to Bart as a short-term strategy? (Answer: if Bart had used procrastination to his advantage, he could have used the time he gained from faking illness to revise for his test. I’m not recommending lying, of course. However, having bought himself time with his lie, Bart had a choice about how to use the time wisely, which could have benefited him. He didn’t make this wise choice, which meant that he got no benefit from his procrastination in the long term.)
    - How might Bart’s procrastination lead to negative results for him in the long term? (Answer: that’s an important question, and it isn’t hard to predict that it won’t end well for Bart. People will soon regard him as a liar and refuse to trust him. He is unlikely to do well in his test. Ultimately, he is going to fail to get that positive boost to his self-esteem that is gained when we rise to a challenge.)

  6. So, why do we procrastinate at all? And why do we procrastinate more in some situations than in others? That’s something that psychologists have been studying for years, looking to unpack what leads to procrastination. An important piece of research by Piers Steel in 2007 looked at almost 700 studies, and combined their ideas and findings. It identified four main factors that increase our tendency towards procrastination.

  7. Show Slide 6: Low self-efficacy

    Self-efficacy relates to how effective we believe we are. When we have low self-efficacy, we don’t have much confidence in our ability to complete a task or do it well. As a result, the likelihood that we will procrastinate increases. We are then less likely to get a positive result that shows us that we can achieve. It’s a vicious circle. Finding ways to believe in our abilities and success can help us to procrastinate less.

  8. Show Slide 7: Low value

    When we need to do something that we think is boring, too easy or doesn’t really matter, we are more likely to procrastinate. We can procrastinate less by making sure that we have enough challenge in what we do, and understanding why certain tasks matter so that they have more value for us.

  9. Show Slide 8: Impulsiveness

    When we have lots of distractions, we are much more likely to procrastinate. We can procrastinate less by turning off notifications, finding a quiet space and telling others that we need space to work without disturbance.

  10. Show Slide 9: Delay

    If we sense that we have a long time to complete a task, we are more likely to procrastinate. We can procrastinate less by setting ourselves goals and deadlines, rather than relying on other people’s deadlines.

Time for reflection

Christians believe that the Bible has something to say about procrastination. Let’s reflect upon what we believe and think about each of the ideas below.

First, there are examples in the Gospels of Jesus taking it easy - of sitting and chatting rather than working! One example was when Jesus was visiting his friends, Martha and Mary, at their house. While Martha was busy running around, getting a meal ready, Jesus sat and passed the time chatting to Mary and some others. Martha was a bit peeved about this, but Jesus told her that Mary was doing something important by sitting and chatting. This teaches us that rest and relaxation are important, especially when we share our time and company with our friends and the people we love.

However, there are other Bible passages that emphasize the importance of taking action, working hard towards goals and being prepared.

Show Slide 10.

In Luke 12.35, Jesus reminds us to be ready, alert and active: ‘Be dressed ready for service and keep your lamps burning.’

Show Slide 11.

Also in the Bible, the apostle, Paul, writes to Christians to encourage them to be wise with their time: ‘Be very careful, then, how you live - not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity.’ (Ephesians 5.15)

As we saw earlier, Bart didn’t manage to do this. He wasn’t overly wise about how he used his time, or what he told his teacher or himself.

Let’s take a moment to reflect upon the following questions.

- What is our attitude to our time and the tasks that we need to do today?

Pause to allow time for thought.

- Can we achieve a balance between companionship, chat and relaxation on the one hand and action and activity towards goals on the other?

Pause to allow time for thought.

- What makes us more likely to procrastinate, and what can we do about it?

Pause to allow time for thought. 

We’ve recognized that we all procrastinate from time to time, some of us more than others! We know why we do it and the strategies that we can adopt to procrastinate less. We’ve seen that Jesus recognized the importance of rest, relaxation and chat. However, the Bible also encourages us to be wise and active in using our time. We will now consider all of these thoughts and ideas as we join in prayer.

Dear God,
Today, we have reflected on the theme of procrastination.
Sometimes, we find that we can’t seem to start what we know we should be doing.
Sometimes, we feel stuck and unable to complete a task, job or activity.
In those times, grant us your peace and encouragement.
Fill our hearts and minds with a sense of optimism and self-belief.
Please send us friends to encourage and support us.
Please equip us to be able to support and encourage others.

Publication date: January 2021   (Vol.23 No.1)    Published by SPCK, London, UK.
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