Everybody procrastinates about something
You are not alone. We all think that others have it together, but the truth is that we are all financial procrastinators.
From years of experience with clients, I know that reality and perception can be totally different. In varying degrees, we all have masks that hide the full truth of our personal lives. When we speak openly with each other about the truth of our procrastination in our financial affairs, others are often relieved to understand that they are also not alone.
Having a conversation about financial procrastination will actually release a tremendous amount of cooperative energy from those close to you and your group of advisors. You will find that the more open you are, the more people will want to help you. They will also be inspired by you and want to learn a well.
Once you understand this, you are suddenly free. You have paved the way to actually using the guilt you have been harbouring and transforming it into a fantastic breakthrough tool.
Your past procrastination is a valuable resource
A very real danger is to see your past financial procrastination and its set-backs as a waste of valuable time and resources. On the contrary, this is actually a treasure of research and development preparing you for the breakthrough you are about to embark on starting right now.
The important thing is to take on the mindset that your procrastination is your most powerful weapon.
Measure, don’t judge.
It can be tempting to judge your progress compared to goals and expectations you may have had. That will serve no one. Better yet, measure the progress that you have made so far. The future is simply a horizon line and you will actually never reach it – it is there simply to motivate you. The past actually gives us some valuable data and you will be quite surprised when you actually take stock of the progress you have made and the valuable lessons you have learned.
Once you have measured your progress, you can use that baseline data to set new goals based on what your past experience has been and what you want to accomplish in the future.
Look for the very valid reasons behind your financial procrastination because there usually is one. Start writing down the reasons and simply observe them for what they are.
For example, you may have heard at some seminar that you will need more than $3 million dollars to retire in comfort in 20 years and that might scare the wits out of you, especially if that goal is clearly out of reach for you. A natural reaction then is to procrastinate on your financial plan, knowing that the unrealistic goal is out of reach. Now is the time to calmly observe your reaction and think it through. Maybe your expectations of retirement costing $3 million dollars are off the mark. Perhaps your lifestyle costs in retirement will be much lower and life simpler, requiring only $1 to $1.5 Million. Or perhaps you will need a whole new set of capabilities to be able to reach the original goal!
Once you are honest with yourself about the reasons for your procrastination you will stop judging, realize that a new mental goal is in order and you will be ready for a better response.
Get Ready for Something New
People often deprive themselves of dreaming big dreams because they fear the inevitable feeling of procrastination that usually happens. That feeling is only natural and is a sign that a growth period waits you of you decide to break through that comfort zone.
There are two important decisions to make here:
- Whether the goal is simply too big and it’s time to put it out of mind and also eliminate the procrastination.
- Whether you are ready to embrace a new set of capabilities and a bigger future and take the necessary action steps to end the procrastination. This is clearly the more exciting option and requires a shift in mindset and newer capabilities that can often involve teamwork that leverages a network of unique abilities. No one can make these massive shifts alone.
In both cases, you will end the uncertainty and only you know which path is the right one for you
Get Comfortable with Your Ambition
The moment you see a bigger future, you have gone a long way toward leaping your biggest hurdle. There are a number of other obstacles though:
- Others in your circle may feel uncomfortable or even criticize your ambition and you may only feel comfortable sharing your vision with others who share your dreams.
- There is an immediate gap between your current abilities and those you will require to grow.
- There will also be a disconnect with many of the people you work with who may not share your ambition.
- There is an immediate time pressure, especially if you have not attached a date to your goal.
- Your past reasons, you “why?” may no longer be valid and it is time to establish a new deeper purpose.
The most exciting feeling is when you realize that you must move forward through the discomfort of change and the realizing that important next steps must take place. This can be frightening, but it gets more and more exciting the more experienced you get at it.
Great achievements begin with discomfort.
The very anxiety you feel before making a commitment is the negative resistance that will force you to push against it and thereby propel you forward. It is no different than when progressively training with heavier and heavier weights in the gym.
Financial Procrastination Breakthrough Strategy
There seven steps that must take place to conquer procrastination and this strategy is common to virtually every self-help program you may have encountered. The steps cannot be mixed up nor fast-tracked – they must happen in sequence. Once you understand the process, you can apply it to every procrastination you will encounter in life.
Step 1 – List your procrastinations
Make a simple list of the top procrastinations that come to mind. Identifying your procrastinations is a fairly easy exercise. Simply think about all those areas where you think “I really should….” For example: I really should… start a financial plan, get our wills and powers of attorney done, start a monthly investment plan, review my portfolio, shop for a better mortgage, track my cash flow, have a family meeting to review the estate plan, review my employee benefits package, go online with CRA, improve my financial literacy, etc.
Step 2 – List the Top 3
Circle the top 3 that if you did them would give you the biggest burst of energy and/or those items where other people are depending on you. The financial issues that you feel have been procrastinating on the most are almost always the ones that you can prioritize immediately.
Step 3 – Ask “Why?”
For each of your top three procrastinations, give a short statement of why you are procrastinating on each item
Step 4 – Commitment
For each of your top procrastinations, write down a specific commitment to achieve it and attach a tentative timeline. The moment your brain clearly decides on a goal, it begins looking for the easiest ways to achieve it. Don’t worry about anything else and do not fear the tension that may immediately set in. As explained before, this negative energy is an essential part of pushing forward. Realize though that you must be serious in moving forward – otherwise the temporary paralysis of procrastination will get worse the more you delay.
Step 5 – Courage
You will remain stuck in your procrastination unless you take action. Immediately write down the first steps to establish forward movement even if you feel you don’t have the capabilities and confidence you need. Recognize that those only come after you pass the Commitment and Courage stages.
Step 6 – Capabilities
Moving forward will force you to use your existing capabilities and confidence. With that forward momentum, you will continually establish the newer needed capabilities and your confidence will grow even stronger as a result.
Step 7 – Confidence
Confidence is the natural outcome of the capabilities we build when we begin with often uncomfortable commitments to growth and taking courageous steps forward.
We call these “The 4 Cs” – Commitment, Courage, Capabilities and Confidence. The first two steps are tough as no one really enjoys making commitments nor taking on courage. It is necessary to go through these steps in order to build the capabilities and confidence that we enjoy.