Six Ways to Beat Financial Procrastination

June 20, 2015

We have all experienced the feeling of putting something off that we know is of utmost importance. Maybe it’s that project or task we need to finish, an important phone call to make, a letter we need to write or an email to send. It could even be a critical work issue or deadline that needs our attention or a relationship conflict that needs resolving.

For some reason, despite our best intentions, we just keep putting it off. We move it forward on our to do list from week to week, sometimes even longer. We intend to do it, but for some reason it gets the best of us. It either remains on the back burner for an indefinite period of time or we exert that frustrating twelfth hour push often saved by some eternally imposed sinister deadline.

For most of us procrastination isn’t a pleasant experience. Typically, it’s an anxious feeling, even a growing pressure, a sense of not being able to manage what we eventually know we must deal with, but for some reason we do not. For some it’s more chronic than others, but we all have likely had this experience. In our financial lives it can present a whole range of challenges and consequences, none of which tends to be positive.

Let’s fix this problem with six helpful insights to curb financial procrastination. When you feel a sense of putting something off that you know is of high importance, apply one or more of the following. Their application will provide an increased level of control over the subject matter. Consider the following six remedies:

  1. Seek professional assistance to increase your education. Most procrastinate because they simply do not have a grasp on the technical details of the decision at hand. Let’s face it, sometimes the financial decisions before us are complicated. Financial choices can also be far reaching in their scope and purpose. If one does not have a good understanding of the subject matter then the process grinds to a halt. Work with an advisor who will slow down the process and make learning a number one priority. This is a key to moving forward!
  2. Establish an accountability system or partner. I work out with a personal trainer three days a week. There are many mornings when I would rather hit the snooze button than be at the gym. Being accountable is essential for success in all areas of our lives, especially with financial dilemmas. Call a friend you admire and tell them you are working on a financial issue. Kindly ask if they would be willing to call you on a designated date to ask you if your issue is resolved. Most are willing to help out with such a simple request. Knowing your friend will be calling will move you to action.
  3. Focus on the consequential pain of not getting the task accomplished. Putting off important financial decisions can create all kinds of problems later. The simple thought of running out of money, not being prepared for a long term catastrophic illness or having assets go to probate unnecessarily can lead to restless nights. I have sat with clients who have been so angry with them selves because they allowed a financial issue to paralyze them. If we focus on the discomfort of those negative ramifications, those images can often help us move forward.
  4. Break the project down into manageable pieces. Sometimes an issue may seem so onerous that we get stuck. In reality it may not be that big of an issue, but it may seem so. Again, being education is key! Consider breaking down the project into manageable steps. For example, if you know you need to set up a living trust then make the first appointment with the attorney. It typically takes 3-4 steps to get these documents in order. There will be a data meeting, a review of draft documents, final revisions and then a final signing and notary.
  5. Don’t over estimate the unpleasantness or difficulty of a task. How many times have you completed something that you that you originally had procrastinated only to admit, “That wasn’t so bad. Why did I put it off for so long?” We can often over dramatize the complexities of a task when in reality the process can be quite simple.
  6. Work on the task for a short period of time and then reassess. We don’t have to eat the whole elephant in one sitting. I do a fair amount of public speaking. I have found it helpful to start with a brief outline, ponder it for a few days and then develop the components over time. There is no reason to become overwhelmed. My client meetings generally last 40-50 minutes, then we re-visit the issues a week later and keep moving forward. This process has proved very valuable over the years.
    As you practice some of these simple remedies and take action, you will increase your level of confidence and financial peace.