Procrastination: sacrificing long-term goals for immediate gratification.
Procrastination is without a doubt one of the most effective tools in the Shaytan’s arsenal. The whole premise of Islam is to postpone immediate gratification in the Dunya for the long-term pleasures of the Hereafter. So the intelligent Muslim man gives up the pleasures of alcohol, drugs, fornication, and gambling for the greater, longer-lasting pleasures of Jannah. Allah, the Most High, said:
“As for those who fear standing before their Lord and forbid their desires then Jannah will be their refuge.” (An-Nazi’aat:40-41)
So it is the job of the Shaytan, as every man’s enemy, to make him procrastinate on performing the actions that will bring him success in this life and the Hereafter and to tempt him with the pleasures of this life.
Procrastination effects us in the most important aspect of our lives: our jobs, our health, our families, and our worship. We delay our projects till we are missing deadlines. We make plans to go the gym that never materialize. We delay visiting family members until they are taken from us. We delay our salat until we miss the time to pray. And so on and so on.
Imagine the things we could achieve, and the men we could be if we did everything we planned to do. If we stopped letting the Shaytan and our desires get the better of us.
So how do we overcome the temptations of the Shaitan and resist our own desires to become more productive Muslim men?
Step 1: Ask Allah for help
As Muslims we know that without Allah’s help we cannot achieve anything on our own. Everything we do is by Allah’s permission, therefore we must first ask Allah for His aid and to make our affairs easy. The Prophet ﷺ used to make this powerful dua seeking refuge from laziness and inability that every man should memorize:
اللهُمَّ إِنِّي أَعُوذُ بِكَ مِنَ الهَمِّ وَالحَزنِ وَالعَجزِ وَالكَسَلِ وَأَعُوذُ بِكَ مِنَ الجُبنِ والبُخُلِ وَ أَعُوذُ بِكَ مِن غَلَبَةِ الدَينِ وَقَهرَةِ الرِجَال
“O Allah, I seek refuge in You from anxiety and sorrow, inability and laziness, miserliness and cowardliness, the burden of debts and being over powered by men.” (Al-Bukhari)
The Prophet ﷺ would also make a habit of asking Allah to make his actions beneficial and worthwhile every day after praying Fajr, he would say:
اللَّهُمَّ إِنِّي أََسأَلُكَ عِلمًا نَافِعًا وَرِزقًا طَيِّبًا وَعَمَلًا مُتَقَبَّلًا
“O Allah, I ask you for knowledge that is beneficial, sustenance that is good, and actions that are accepted.”
Step 2: Begin the day right
Start your day by praying Fajr on time, preferably in the masjid if possible. How successful do you think your day is going to be waking up with the Shaytan’s pee in your ear! And whilst your at it don’t go back to sleep. The hours after Fajr are your best getting-things-done hours. These hours are full of barakah and before the time most people get up, so less distractions from kids, text messages, emails, etc.
Try it out if it isn’t already a part of your routine. You will be amazed at how much you can get done in this short period of time.
Step 3: Write it down
Write the things you want to get done in a to-do list or even better set a time and date for when you want to do it and record it in your calendar. Research shows that by simply writing the action down you can double the likelihood of you following through with that intention.
Step 4: Just get started
This may sound obvious, but the hardest part of any action is just getting started, so we have to make getting started as easy as possible. One way is to say “I’m just going to do this action for 5 minutes today.” For example, maybe you need to mow the lawn. It’s going to take at least half an hour, but you have been putting it off for days, so today you are just going to mow the lawn for 5 minutes. It’s easy to get started on a task that is only going to take 5 minutes. Once you get started most likely you will want to keep going until you are finished.
Or maybe you want to get into the habit of reading the Quran daily, so instead of setting a difficult goal you say I’m just going to read for 5 minutes. Even if you stop after 5 minutes it is still better than no minutes, and you can try and do 6 minutes tomorrow. After a few days it should become a habit and getting yourself to read Quran everyday should not be such a tough task.
Step 5: Pair things you hate doing with things you love
If you have a daily chore that you hate then pair it with something you love to do. For example, you hate doing the dishes, but you love to listen to a certain podcast, so whenever you do the dishes listen to your favorite podcast. You have an assignment to complete and you love doughnuts, so eat doughnuts whilst working on your assignment.
Feel free to let us know in the comments whether these steps were helpful for you, or if you have any other techniques you use to beat procrastination.