I’ll admit it. I used to be a chronic procrastinator. It was just too easy to put off things I didn’t want to do until the last minute. The last minute has seen a lot of action over my time. In this last minute of getting things done there is a lot of stress and anxiety, not to mention inaccuracy.
Over time I have got better at doing things I don’t like doing but need to be done. It has been difficult as it is a battle against your natural instincts. I still procrastinate, I think everyone does to some extent, but it is not to the same detrimental levels as previously.
Procrastination is a habit, and habits are hard to break. But with enough effort, your natural instinct will change from procrastinating to doing.
But what is wrong with procrastinating?
We can waste a lot of time procrastinating. What are you doing with your time instead of doing the thing you should be doing? Quite often it is something non-productive. Procrastinators tend to distract themselves by anything and everything. From the sound of birds to the neighbour mowing their lawns to tidying the desk.
We may miss out on meeting deadlines or goals. Missing out on work promotions, good grades or savings targets.
We may miss out on a great opportunity. For example, a business opportunity may come up but the set-up was too difficult. We decide to watch TV instead and do it later. Too late - someone else has taken it up and we missed out. We are now stuck at our job we don’t like. Opportunities tend to favour the brave and those willing to act.
We risk our health. Studies have proven that putting difficult tasks off increases our stress and anxiety levels.
We make poorer decisions. With time pressures looming we make poor decisions that can have a big impact on our wealth and happiness.
If it is wrong why do we procrastinate?
A task is seen as too difficult
There are too many options so we end up choosing nothing
The task at hand is time consuming
We lack the knowledge to complete the task
We lack the skills for the task required and don’t want to risk embarrassment
We’re afraid of screwing up. Nothing ventured, nothing lost right?
We are perfectionists and have to wait for just the right time
We may be expressing anger towards someone. I could do the task, but I’m withholding my best efforts because I am angry with the person that will benefit from me completing the task.
Most importantly, there is a feeling of relief when we procrastinate. We remember this feeling, which re-enforces the decision, making it more likely again in the future.
How to stop procrastinating
First we need to be aware that we are procrastinating
We then need to train our minds to do, not just think about doing. We so often talk ourselves out of doing something. Don’t overthink and hesitate. The easiest way to break the habit is to break the task into smaller parts so the challenge doesn’t seem so great. It doesn’t have to be perfect.
Whilst doing so, we need to build up our tolerance for discomfort. It is too easy to avoid discomfort. By experiencing discomfort on a regular basis we begin to get more comfortable ironically enough.
Your environment can also influence procrastinating. If your closest circle of friends are procrastinators, chances are you may be too. Recognise this and break the mould if needed until the task is complete. They will be fine watching that movie without you.
Have other people hold you accountable. You are more likely to complete the task knowing that people are watching you.
Seek help from an expert if unsure on a difficult subject
Think of what will happen if you don’t do the task.
Visualise how good you will feel when the task is complete
Give yourself a reward once the task is complete.
We often build up stress in our own minds by building up something to be much more difficult than it really is. By implementing the tips above, we can reduce our stress levels so that we can make optimal and timely money decisions, instead of stressed and hurried decisions.
By freeing up time we are also in a much better position to take up any great opportunities that come our way. Luck really does favour the brave. 90% of the time it is not lucky that we find ourselves with great opportunities. It is through our own decisions. The fear of missing out should be a strong motivator in itself.
To get some of that ‘luck’, we need to build our own emotional muscles. A strong brain muscle is able to let go of short-term failure in favour of long-term gain. This is not a natural thing to do, and comes from the hunter-gatherer era. Our ancestors were only worried about making it through another day. They weren’t thinking about tomorrow. We are not hard-wired to think this way. That is why strength training is needed on our emotional muscular system.
In a previous article we have discussed the impact of procrastinating your savings by just 9 years.
Acknowledge that it is fine to procrastinate – just not all the time or on the things that will affect us the most. Just like everything in life - balance is the key. Decide what is most important to you and act on those things.
Finally, when there is a deadline to meet, procrastination usually has an expiry date. Panic sets in and the job gets done, albeit poorly. Procrastination is much more dangerous to our health, wealth and happiness when there is no deadline. This means that the procrastination can be on-going for long periods until you have forgotten about the decision or task at all. This long-term type of procrastination can almost be invisible, but can be the source of long-term unhappiness and regret. Place your own deadlines and don’t become a passenger in your own life.
The information contained on this site is the opinion of the individual author(s) based on their personal opinions, observation, research, and years of experience. The information offered by this website is general education only and is not meant to be taken as individualised financial advice, legal advice, tax advice, or any other kind of advice. You can read more of my disclaimer here
Is something too hard or is it just our perception of something that makes it too hard? What things do you always seem to want to put off? What techniques do you use to do something you don’t like? Comment below