Procrastination, Money, And Me

A few days ago, I was reading a post at Money, Matter, and More Musings entitled Some Lessons From My Wallet. In it, the author makes the following interesting statement that really made me think:

Makes me wonder if procrastination might be at the root of most misery. In the past I have written about the positive side of procrastination, but I guess that works only in moderation. Too much procrastination, with things that really matter, is definitely going to cause problems.

When I went through my own personal financial armageddon, one of the biggest challenges I had to deal with were piles and piles of receipts, statements, bills, and other things that were in complete chaos. There was literally a small mountain of things to deal with, a sure sign of a financial life completely off the rails. I had no real idea what I was paying for anything, which made it very easy to just buy things without really thinking about the consequences.

There was really only one core thing to blame for this sorry state of affairs: procrastination. Rather than dealing with my financial information, I would just toss it off to the side and forget about it entirely. I would do this with bills, then look at my bank account and go “Wow, I have a lot of money to spend!” then spend away. About once a month, I’d mumble and grumble and fetch out the bills and do them, then quite often finish the process with a huge, sick feeling in my stomach.

Why not just pay them as soon as they come in? Procrastination. It was simply a lot easier to put it off for another day than to face it immediately. In a way, procrastination was a form of denial about my spending habits – if I didn’t look at the bad news (the bills) and only considered the good news (the balance of my checking account), everything was good and I could spend away!

To me, this is a very, very clear example of where good personal finance habits intersect with personal development, and two books I’ve talked about on here in the past really come to mind.

nowThe Now Habit approaches solving the procrastination problem from a psychological perspective. It looks at the root causes of why people procrastinate and offers tons of thought exercises and potential solutions. For me, the real powerful insight from this book was that of the flow state; basically, by just setting aside blocks of time exclusively devoted to accomplishing stuff, you can wind up appearing really productive even if you’d rather just loaf around. This book got me to spending periods of time each day just getting stuff done. You can read a lot more about The Now Habit in my detailed review of the book.

gtdGetting Things Done tackles the corollary problem: once you’ve actually committed yourself to not procrastinating, how do you manage all of the stuff you want to do? Basically, this book’s philosophy is just to dump everything that you know you need to do out of your mind, then just work through those items (it’s a bit more complex, but in the end, not really all that much more complex). I found it incredibly liberating and empowering when I started following parts of this system; I found that the blocks of time I started setting aside to get stuff done became insanely productive because I didn’t have to waste time thinking about what to do next – I just did it by trusting the system. You can read a lot more about Getting Things Done in my detailed review of the book.

If you find yourself with mountains of statements and bills lying around unorganized and you have very little true grasp of your financial state, it’s likely that procrastination is the biggest culprit. Learn how to tackle the procrastination problem and your finances will thank you.

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