By Cicily Maton, CFP®
Back in January, I committed to writing an article about longevity. I was going to explain how longevity is providing all of us added years, and how with proper planning we can be healthier and happier. Well, here it is March and I still have not written that article. Which got me to thinking about, “why do I, we, humans, procrastinate?”
Writing an article is not my first encounter with “procrastination.” Over the years, I have developed strategies to fool my brain and trick myself into getting the job done. Obviously, they did not work this time.
Years ago, I was known to have large, wonderful dinner parties. Little did my guests know that I had scheduled the party some weeks in advance so that I would be motivated to paint that room, plant the garden, and update the living room décor. Then I would work round the clock to be ready by party time.
Then, there was the effort to get into better physical shape. Recognizing that I would never stick to a diet or get myself to the gym every day, I did what was for me the logical thing. I signed up for the Chicago Marathon.
I hired a racewalk coach, developed a three-month training schedule, and told everyone I knew that I was going to racewalk the marathon. I even sent out maps with the time I would be in certain neighborhoods, so friends could cheer me on throughout the race. I never missed a workout or training day. On my race day, I was ready! It took me six hours, but I finished.
If you Google the word procrastination, here is what you get: Procrastination is the avoidance of doing a task that needs to be accomplished. It is the practice of doing more pleasurable things in place of less pleasurable ones or carrying out less urgent tasks instead of more urgent ones, thus putting off impending tasks to a later time. Sometimes, procrastination takes place until the “last minute” before a deadline.
It seems to me that we all have some tasks that we don’t rush to complete. Have you fixed that leaky faucet in the guest bath room? Have you taken the car in for the scheduled service? (That is on my list.) Have you completed your 2019 spending plan? Is your estate plan up to date? Have you been meaning to change the named agent on your POA (Power of Attorney)? Have you been putting off your meeting with your financial planner? The list could go on and on.
Is there a cure for procrastination? If there is, I haven’t found it But here are a few simple tips that you might find helpful.
- Face the fact that sometimes we will fail to do things we have been meaning to do. It is not the end of the world. Make plans anyway. As the old saying goes, a goal without a plan is only a wish.
- Sleep on it. One of the reasons we have difficulty managing our complex lives is that we are not well rested. Eliminating fatigue can help make you more productive. So begin your preparation for doing a difficult task with a good night’s sleep.
- Make an effort. You can fight your tendency to procrastinate by simply beginning the task at hand. Even if you make a minimal start and do the absolute least you can do…it will make each incremental step less painful.
- Trying to accomplish too many tasks in too little time can be overwhelming. Break big tasks into smaller pieces. Simply do what you can, when you can, as you are able to do it. It may not add up to finishing the whole enchilada, but it does qualify as progress.
- Have you noticed how doing things that you dread take longer to do? When faced with a difficult job, consider whether the task you dread can outsourced, delegated, or handled by someone who is better suited and/or more excited about the assignment.
- It seems to me that we are more successful accomplishing what might appear to us as unpleasant if there is something pleasurable, or fun, or a reward when the task is completed. Perhaps schedule that meeting with your financial planner for the late afternoon, and treat yourself and your partner to a nice dinner out.
Finally, if all else fails… and you are on a tight deadline…and you must finish a blog on the topic of longevity…and you’ve transformed it instead into a rant about procrastination….admit it. Move on. Promise readers in writing that it will never happen again.
I, Cicily Maton, hereby promise that the next time you see my byline it will be on an article on the subject of longevity. I intend to begin writing it later today no later than tomorrow. No, really.
Cicily Maton, CFP® is a Financial Planner in the Chicago office of The Planning Center, a fee-only financial planning and wealth management firm.
Please email her at: firstname.lastname@example.org.