Procrastination is the result of a “domino effect”. Imagine you wish to build a house. However, you constantly wonder what colour curtains you’ll place over the windows. You start debating with yourself about every prospective problem and every prospective failure: “Will my spouse like my choice of curtains?”, for example.
But, we first need to take a step back. You have not truly envisioned the simple steps required to achieve your goal. You have not even applied for planning permission yet and you are concerning yourself with the curtains. At this rate, you will never build your house.
Procrastination is a problem that the mass majority of Muslims face. It is a devastating problem striking us deep within our hearts. Some suffer mild symptoms, delaying simple tasks; others allow it to control their lives, to the point that it disrupts their connection with their Lord. Why? Why do we let this disease take over our lives?
Let us break this down into a simple model of what is actually happening. Every one of us has insecurities, maybe we have failed in the past, maybe we have been teased, maybe Shayṭān has induced them. Whatever the cause, when we aspire to achieve something our insecurities are put at risk. Instantly the “idea” of “can I do this?” floats in your mind like a thick fog over a crystal clear lake. Instantly this new “idea” begs the question, am I doing this right? Now you fall into a pit of insecurity and self-doubt. Slowly losing focus from your goal due to your “internal battle”, until all motivation is lost. This quick progression from simply questioning yourself to abandoning a task altogether is a result, in part, of the aptly named “Domino Effect”.
The “Domino Effect” runs deeper and more destructive than causing a single incident of procrastination. It is a formidable force that begins as a small hesitation and slowly and indiscernibly begins to consume you until all your carefully laid plans and goals, your beautiful work of domino art, topple one by one into a shattered and scattered mess. Take as an example any good action you wish to perform or any lofty goal you wish to achieve. You wish to give charity, you wish to learn Arabic, you wish to memorise the Qur’an, you wish to start a business; whatever it is, that initial excitement and vision is darkened and your goals are crushed by the onslaught of doubts, questions and excuses that spring to your mind before you have even had the chance to take a single step towards achieving your goals.
“Donate £100? But, what about the grocery shopping? How about £50? But, what about that bill? Then £10? But, you were planning on going out for lunch today.”
“Learn Arabic? But, how will you find the time to learn an entire language? How long has it been since you were in school? You struggle with the letter ʿAyn, how do you expect to converse in an entire language of those letters?”
“Memorise the Qur’ān? Please… that ship has sailed.”
As per the disastrous “Domino Effect”, a catastrophic turn of events and an endless cycle of cause and effect bring all your goals to a screeching halt. This “Goal Crushing” is what occurs when you allow your insecurities to stop you achieving. One small failure, one hesitation, one delay due to procrastination, allows for further, and often greater, failures which, in turn, increase your insecurities all the more. Would you refuse to get out of bed in the morning because you once stumbled while half asleep? As ridiculous and far-fetched as that sounds, it is essentially the same thought process that occurs when we allow our fears of possible failure stop us from bringing thought into action.
As destructive as self-doubt is, perfectionism is just as destructive. Perfectionism stops a person from moving forward and achieving their goals not because of a doubt in the ability to perform the action but, rather, due to an obsession and preoccupation with performing that action to absolute perfection. You do not allow yourself to take a single step towards achieving your goal because you have built an intimidating and unrealistic picture that has become too overwhelming for you to tackle.
Between your insecurities and self-doubt about taking on a task and your obsessive preoccupation with perfection, you reach a state of inner turmoil that keeps you in a stalemate; a deadlock in your “internal battle”. You never move forward, you never achieve your goal, you never perform that good action, you never take those steps to please Allāh.
Now that we have understood why and how we move so quickly from wanting to do something to procrastinating, we can now ask: How can we achieve our goals? Your goal can only ever be achieved if you believe in yourself.
Allāh created you with all of the facilities to effectively achieve success in this life.
Anas (radi Allahu anhu) reported that a person asked the Prophet (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam), “Should I tie my camel and have Tawakkul (trust in Allāh for her protection) or should I leave her untied and have Tawakkul?” The Messenger of Allāh (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam) replied, “Tie her and have Tawakkul.”
This ḥadīth teaches us that what is wanted from us is our best effort. It is not enough for us to sit by and expect Allāh (subḥānahu wa taʿālā) to make our goals a reality. We must do our utmost best to achieve our goals and believe that Allāh will help us in achieving our goals or else give us something better. Procrastination cannot co-exist with this attitude and we are not fulfilling the lesson of this ḥadīth if we allow our thoughts, insecurities and the “idea” of failure to stop us from giving our best effort to achieving our goals.
Understand your goal and map a journey to achieving it. You need to know what you want to accomplish and then understand the steps you need to take to make this a reality. Perfectionism is what will threaten to dismantle your goals at this point. To overcome this, remember Rule Three…
Get your priorities straight!
Formulate a step-by-step plan that deals with each juncture of your journey and stick to this plan. Do not focus on later steps when you have yet to complete the task at hand. Plan small tasks for each day, and give yourself a weekly review so you can track your success.
“Hasten to success”.
This is the most important rule. Establish and maintain your connection with Allāh; never miss a prayer for prayer is the key to success. Other than fulfilling the obligations Allāh has ordained upon us, in praying we receive an abundance of benefit and aid. We are reminded of our dependence on Allāh (Rule One), we realign our priorities, we reveal our insecurities and preoccupations to our Lord and we ask that He help us in overcoming our fears of failure and succeeding in our endeavours in this life and the Hereafter.
“Get up and get started.”
Do not delay it any longer. Start today even if it is just in making a plan. Don not delay in performing any good deeds you have had in mind. Remember, Allāh has blessed you with ideas and the intention to do good deeds: “So which of the favours of your Lord would you deny?”
Get up, accept your Lords favours and act now.
 al-Timridhi Book 37, Hadith 2707
 Al-Qur’ān, 55:13