At first, we’ll rationalize: yes, there is a lot of time, so I can relax right now. But eventually, we get drawn into the trap of procrastination, and only at the last moment do we realize with a jolt that we’ve run out of time.It happens all the time with work, but the target that Shaitan concentrates on is our spirituality.
School is out, the summer is here, and we have long days ahead of us – so there’s lots of time to kill. But have you ever had a list of things you wanted to do during the summer, only to realize on August 31st that you only did half the things you planned? Where did all the time go?
During break, it’s only natural to want to relax, but we are also responsible for how we use our time in this world to build our way to the hereafter. With the long days in sight, we may think, “There’s still a lot of time to do that later…” – it’s the little whisper that lulls us into a false sense of security. At first, we’ll rationalize: yes, there is a lot of time, so I can relax right now. But eventually, we get drawn into the trap of procrastination, and only at the last moment do we realize with a jolt that we’ve run out of time.
It happens all the time with work, but the target that Shaitan concentrates on is our spirituality. Now, no matter how “secular” they seem, all of our actions are related to Islam. The Holy Prophet (peace be upon him and his progeny) has said, “There are seventy branches of worship, the best of which is earning a living lawfully.” (At-Tahdheeb) Therefore, even getting an education, working at a job, and keeping an organized lifestyle are all Islamic acts. That’s why Shaitan intervenes in all of those areas, but he definitely favors distracting our more apparent Islamic actions, such as doing our prayers.
The whisper kicks in when we set out to perform a good deed: when we think about going to the mosque, when we want to ask Allah for forgiveness, when it’s time to pay religious dues, and so on. Anything that brings us closer to Allah, anything which benefits us in the hereafter then seems like a daunting task. It is at times like those that we start thinking about the time, energy, and money we would have to use – and so we start procrastinating.
Procrastination is a habit which some may not even realize they have. It often seems as if one is just taking a break, but in reality – if they are constantly delaying things – they are a victim of procrastination. Whether it is about completing a project, implementing the teachings of a hadith, or doing our prayers – the whisper is there to try and trip us up.
Yet to every problem there is a solution. Allah has given us the abilities to find ways out of our difficulties, and with the help of emulating the habits of our Ahlul Bayt (peace be upon them), we can be on our way to overcoming procrastination.
First things first, we need to get our priorities straight and to improve our time management skills. It is important to keep in mind that substituting one task for another is not solving the conflict – priorities should be set and time should be managed in such a way that it is possible to do both. There are times when people end up having to choose between doing their work and going to the mosque, or between finishing a report and performing prayers. But no one should have to forsake one for the other because they are both connected as different forms of worship, and we should be spreading our time and efforts for both.
Our Holy Prophet has given a basic outline on how to balance our 24-hour day. We should devote some of our time to worship, to gaining an education or livelihood, to participating in community and social events, and to our family. If you find that your day is almost always devoted to just a couple of those activities, then you know there’s a glitch. That’s when prioritizing comes in; not all portions need equal time, but we should be living in such a way that most of them fit into our day. That way, the day is more organized and relatively procrastination-free; there is a portion devoted to resting and a portion devoted to accomplishing the work that needs to be done.
Besides organizing our day, the Ahlul Bayt have repeatedly advised us to surround ourselves with positive influences. Even according to the American Journal of Sociology, the habits of our friends do affect our own personality development. If we are constantly surrounded by people who always think negatively, “I can’t do it, it’s impossible”, then we are likely to head in the same direction: either our work will be performed sloppily, or it will not be done at all. If we are surrounded by good friends, then we will be more likely to believe that we can fulfill the task assigned to us, and we would not procrastinate.
Another method of battling procrastination is to constantly be in the state of Wudhu. When with Wudhu, we are constantly aware of the primary reason for having performed the ablution: to worship our Lord. To pray, to work, and to learn, all count as forms of worship; therefore, when we are with Wudhu, we do not feel that our task is something that is acceptable to be delayed. It makes sense to do the Ibadat at that time rather than later, and to make use of our time while we are in this special state of purity.
Most importantly, our willpower and faith have to be strong. One of the causes of procrastination is that we may think we cannot accomplish the assigned task; with that mindset, we are more likely to push the task to be done later. We have to adjust that way of thinking, because Allah has made just a bare minimum as obligatory for us, while we are capable of much more.
It isn’t just about accomplishing everything on the summer “to do” list; rather, on a larger scale, it is about how we spend our lifetime. This life is temporary, and it is the next life that we need to work towards. We should not fall prey to the routine of procrastination, because it will impact our journey towards Allah.
Constant awareness of His presence, prioritizing our tasks, surrounding ourselves with positive influences, and having the willpower to stick to them are key to changing our ways. When we will be called back to our Creator, let it not be that we did not fulfill our duties as Muslims because of procrastination.