Never do today what you could do tomorrow. That’s the serial procrastinator’s anthem. On a recent episode of the Personal Finance podcast, Warren Ingram spoke about the extreme cost of procrastination. He added that it doesn’t matter who you are, even the most organised and intelligent people do this, to their detriment.
I’ll Do It Later
Ingram used gym as an example of our behavioural patterns when it comes to health and finance decisions, they’re parallel. He says he can pinpoint the ‘New Year’s resolution’ people who show up in the gym. “You can see them because they don’t know where they’re going, they don’t know what they’re doing, and they sit on the machines and talk on their phones,” says Ingram. He’s in the gym all year.
By the beginning of March, almost to the exact week every year, Ingram says you can go to the gym and it will be at half capacity. “All of the New Year’s resolution people, bar one or two who’ve managed to change their behaviour, are staying at home.”
He says it’s the same in the money business. He reports getting great interest from people about retirement savings, the month before contributions to retirement annuities close – the end of the tax year.
“So now there’s an event and then you’ll get enormous focus from people. Especially the week before because it’s about the last opportunity they can get to do it. And then two weeks after the financial year has started, when compounding would really work in their favour, and when they should really be making those money decisions, they’re ‘very busy’.”
And he says they’re ‘very busy’ right until the week before the deadline again
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Stop Screwing Yourself Over
We didn’t say it. Life coach, Mel Robbins, said it in her 2011 Tedx San Francisco presentation, How To Stop Screwing Yourself Over, that went viral. In it, she points out how scientists have worked out the numerical probability of your very existence. Yes, you. That the chance of you being born when you were born, how you were born, to the parents you were born to, etc. are one in 400 trillion (1 in 400,000,000,000,000). Just to put the significance of your everyday decisions into context.
And yet, when we wake up in the morning, she says the first impulse we have is to go back to bed. “Snooze.”
Robbins’ entire career is about helping people get what they want in life, relationships, the workplace, the bedroom (again, she said it). And she says the trick to getting what you want hinges on realising one important fact: “You’re never going to feel like it. Ever.”
She explains that she believes our brains have two settings: autopilot and emergency brake. Our brains enjoy autopilot mode because it’s easy, it’s what your brain knows how to do. But anytime there’s a new idea, it involves doing something different and your brain goes: “Emergency brake!”
Robbins’ relays how scientists have named the physical force required to change from autopilot to get yourself to do something different, “activation energy.” It’s the same force required to get dressed and out the door to go to gym as it is just getting up out of bed 30 minutes earlier without pressing snooze.
It applies to starting to stock up your emergency fund, doing something about your retirement shortfall, eating healthy to lose weight, and on and on ad infinitum. You have to force yourself.
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Getting Things Done
Ingram has three tips for getting the ball rolling with your finances.
1. Break It Up
Ingram says you can break up a big task into a series of smaller tasks. He uses the example of a will and says to make a note right now in your diary to make an appointment with a lawyer in the morning. But other examples are starting or increasing your tax-free savings.
2. Get An Accountability Buddy
Get a partner to hold you accountable. Eg. “If I haven’t got a will done by Friday, I’ll buy you a case of whiskey.” That friend will be on the phone with you by Friday afternoon.
Take one step forward every week. Once you start it becomes a habit.
3. Diversify Your Uncertainty
Say you have a large sum of money in cash that needs to be invested. Stagger the investments if you’re concerned about “the right time to invest”. Take small steps, but take steps.
Robbins says the trick to fooling your emergency brake, is to take action within five seconds of getting the impulse to do something. Otherwise, “emergency brake!”
Self-made millionaire, Grant (he goes by Grant exclusively), shared on his Millennial Money blog the number one reason he feels he’s successful with money. “I started making good, then better, and finally the best money decisions."
“There is almost always a better, or best decision when it comes to money, but a good decision is better than making none at all,” says Grant. He says this applies to saving, investing, launching a business, lending money, basically anything having to do with money. “The key to getting ahead is always making good decisions. You don’t have to make better or best. Good is often good enough.”
“So what are the other excuses? There are none. Just get it done,” challenges Ingram.