Don’t Let Procrastination Derail Your Plans

by Tracy · 10 comments

As I write this, I’m a victim on my own procrastination. Since early Fall, I’ve put off getting my annual flu shot even though I know I have a house full of grubby children that bring home every germ known to mankind and we get free shots through our health insurance. Today? I am writing this from my sickbed, a glass of some sort of foul tasting vitamin C drink on one side and a box of tissues at the other. Lesson learned.

While procrastination doesn’t always literally make you sick, it can seriously affect our ability to reach our financial goals. We’ve all seen the charts that demonstrate the startling difference between starting retirement savings in our early 20s as opposed to our early 40s. Similarly, putting off paying bills can cost us in late fees, service interruptions and other serious consequences. When it comes to our money, it generally doesn’t pay to put off until tomorrow what we could be doing today.

Don’t let perfect be the enemy of good
Often, when we procrastinate it’s because we’re waiting for circumstances to be ideal before we take the plunge. For example, it’s common for people to put off savings because they can’t save very much right now and there’s always the hope that next year will bring a big raise or a reduction in expenses that will allow for a more significant savings.

What important financial steps are you putting off? What would you risk by getting started today? What are you risking by putting it off until tomorrow? Here are some questions to get you started:

  • Have I made sure that I have the right insurance for my situation (health, home, auto, life) and that I’m paying the best price for the coverage I need?
  • Am I taking full advantage of retirement savings vehicles that I am eligible to participate in?
  • Do I have an emergency savings fund?
  • What are my goals for the near future (down payment for a house, college, dream vacation, etc) and am I taking steps to actively save for them or just vaguely hoping it will all fall into place?
  • If I would like to make more money, am I taking steps to make that possible?

Our lives will always be complicated and we’ll always have more demands on our income than we prefer. Waiting until things are perfect is a good way to guarantee we’ll never get started at all.

Make it Easy on Yourself to Act
Being organized is a good start to mitigating the effects of procrastination on our financial lives. It’s easier to focus on what needs to be done if we simply and eliminate much of the clutter in our lives. If you have your financial documents in order, it’s much less intimidating to rework a budget or automate our savings.

It can be helpful to set a weekly, biweekly or monthly financial meeting with yourself to form action plans and give yourself a firm date on when you’ll have it done. Open-ended words like “someday”, “soon” or “later” make it far too easy for us to weasel out of our goals.

Most of us are visual creatures, so consider making yourself the grown up equivalent of a sticker chart to keep track of your progress and keep yourself motivated to keep working. For example, you could make a graph of how that $10 a paycheck you’ve been putting away adds up or make a big checklist of items that you can cross off with a big, dramatic flourish as you achieve each one.

It’s important not to let your inner critic talk yourself out of feeling proud of these little victories. You are making progress and there’s nothing silly about feeling pride in that.

It Gets Easier
Have you ever heard the phrase “If you want something done, give it to a busy person to do?” Or perhaps you’ve noticed that it’s easier to do 12 things on a packed day than just that one thing on a day with nothing else planned. The more you get into the habit of action, the easier it will be to just do things as they come up, rather than put them off.

How do you overcome procrastination? Has procrastination ever played a negative role in your finances?

Photo Credit: denn

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{ read the comments below or add one }

  • What are your thoughts on procrastination being the totally rational thing to do b/c you simply are happy with your state and don’t want it enough to do something? That’s my reasoning frankly.

    If one is out of shape, it’s b/c they are happy being out of shape and not motivated enough to get in shape b/c it’s a pain. Pretty logical.

    • MoneyNing says:

      Procrastination is always the short term rational decision but long term, it’s never the rational decision.

      Sitting on the couch is nice for the moment, but getting fat and not looking good / being healthy is NEVER rational. Not answering that email and putting it off always seem like the rational thing short term because you have more important tasks to accomplish, but ultimately spending more time as you read and re-read that email makes the decision very silly.

      Something may seem very logical but in reality, the logic may not make sense if the scope is expanded. Common sense is only limited to what we know at the time though right? After all, common sense said that Earth was the center of our universe until we found out our planet was actually moving in an orbit around the sun.

  • Briana @ GBR says:

    I’m hoping that some of the things I did to automate my money will make it a lot easier to accomplish my goals in 2011. If I automate it, it’s impossible to procrastinate 🙂

  • vered says:

    I have found that breaking a big task into smaller, more manageable goals is the best way to accomplish large goals – finance or otherwise.

    • MoneyNing says:

      Divide and conquer is the best. It’s much easier to be motivated when you are getting the small “wins” along the way. It also offers a way for you to figure out whether you are on track or not.

  • KM says:

    Procrastination has been a brutal enemy for me in with school work, but dealing with finances is more pleasant and less time consuming, so it has never been a problem for me. I usually pay the bills as I get them, or in the case of car insurance, sometimes even pay for several months in advance to avoid being bothered by it.

    • MoneyNing says:

      I like paying bills when I get them, because that way, I will never forget.

      You can actually get a discount with most car insurances if you pay up front every 6 months. You might want to look into that if you are prepaying a few months in advance anyway.

  • Jenna says:

    Setting up alerts for bank accounts has helped me avoid overdraft and protection fees. A couple extra minutes has definitely saved me a couple of times.

  • marci357 says:

    There is NO guarantee that the flu shot you missed would have covered the flu you got…. there are many many strains of flu 🙂

    • MoneyNing says:

      Hopefully the group that decides which strain to put into the flu shots for the year covers all the common ones, so even if one were to get a flu, they would be “less” sick.

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