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My Secret War with Procrastination

One of the toughest things I battle in my life is procrastination. My natural response is I’ll do it later. And there’s a part of me that despises that procrastinator and wages a daily war to defeat it. That’s how I’ve come to rely on the power of habits and routines. If I can avoid having to make a decision, I lose the choice to put it off until later.

A close up of a street sign on a pole

Habits are those things we do so often, they become automatic. Take my MacBook computer. You’d be shocked to know just how many hours a day I am on this thing. The keyboard is part of me. My muscles have totally memorized every stroke, the location of every key. Until something changes. 

Due to a series of complications (Mavericks plus multiple monitors), I was forced to move my dock  from the bottom of my screen to the left side. We’re talking about a 90-degree relocation from horizontal to vertical. And I’m ready to be committed. 

Everything in me wants that dock at the bottom. Every muscle recalls exactly where each tool should be. For nearly three weeks I have battled this annoying change and it is driving me to the brink of insanity. My routines are disrupted, my old habit is screaming in torment. My brain, muscles and fingers are  trained to reach effortlessly to get what I need. It was so automatic I didn’t have to think about it. 

I’ve gained a new appreciation for the power of habit. Habits and routines are my allies in my war against procrastination. It takes mental toughness for me to force habits and routines on myself before laziness, stress and temptation kick in. I’ve learned that when I automate the predictable things in my day, that allows me to react to the unpredictable and take control with flexibility and poise. Pracrastination doesn’t stand a chance.

If you have attended a Debt-Proof Living Webinar, read my book by the same title or been part of my DebtProofLiving.com family, you know the first step to getting control of your money. It has nothing to do with changing anything. It is simply keeping track of your spending for 30 days: Writing down every way you spend money—every hour of every day—for 30 days. 

Oh, the torment. It’s difficult. That’s because we don’t want to do it. It’s out of routine, it’s a pain. It takes time, it’s easy to forget. Worse, we’d rather not know where all the money goes. 

Sadly, most people start out with great intentions to track their spending but give up before noon on the first day. They’re weak, coddled by the culture that says “Don’t worry about it! If you run out of money you can just use a credit card to get by.” Or that inner procrastinator that assures, “Go easy, you can do it tomorrow.” 

Anything here sound familiar? If so, are you ready to kick your procrastinator to the curb so you can work on creating a new money habit? Great. 

Every morning start with a fresh piece of paper or a new “note” on your smartphone–whatever works for you. Determine to record every way you spend money today. Just write down “what for” and “how much.” At the end of the day take a look. Wow. Ok. Do it again tomorrow. And the next day.

After about four days it will become more routine. After three weeks you will have established a new habit. Notice how your spending changes, if for no other reason that you just don’t want to write it down! You’ll be on your way and ready to take control of your financial situation.

As of a few hours ago I believe I’ve conquered this dock relocation. Finally, that “automatic” thing is starting to kick. I’m pretty sure I’ll have a new habit by morning.

Question: On a scale of 1 to 10, where 1=Not At All and 10=Oh, Baby!, where would you put yourself on the Procrastination Scale? I love to read your comments, so make ’em entertaining 🙂

ATM
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  1. Jacque Taylor says:

    My sweet daughter and I have conversations about procrastination. It’s a science! What we have come up with is that the root of procrastination is fear. It could be fear of succeeding, fear of taking that first step, fear of trying, fear of pain, fear of failure. Hoo-boy, there are a lot of things to be afraid of out there! But is that the head we want to live in? No, not at all. So we ask the question: What are we really afraid of and is this fear real and justified, or are we just stuck in an old, inefficient habit? (That word HABIT is huge, by the way.) If we are keeping ourselves from doing something because there’s a real threat, then that’s not procrastination — that’s survival. If we “just don’t wanna,” then that’s probably a habit we’ve learned in order to stay comfortable and in control of our environment … comfortably numb, comfortably fed, just happy in our own little worlds where nobody tells us what to do. How busy, how run-down, how tedious, even how boring our lives become because of how much work it is to take care of everyone and all our stuff. The only peace we get sometimes is to recluse into our own cocoons and ignore our lists. Cocooning is good. But when we come out, and we always do, what is real? The work is still there to do. So, may we recommend what usually works for us? Start small. Do one little thing. When that’s done, look back at it and say, “Looks good! Now, I will do one more small thing.” Before you know it, you have completed a task. You have looked fear in the eye and spat. House a mess? Every day, start in the north end and work your way south. Every time you need encouragement, look back at what you have already accomplished, even if it is one little corner in one little room, or one cup washed. Whatever we do, let’s not wring our hands in guilt and fear, worrying about The List. Love is the answer to yet one more problem. Love yourself by having a sense of humor, treat your List with love and respect, and start small. PROCRASTINATE LATER.

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  2. AG says:

    Mary-

    I think I’m an 11! I’m working at it daily though. I keep falling off, but I also keep trying. Eventually something will click.

    I LOVE your column and have used so many of your and your readers’ tips and hands down your recipes are absolutely the best — every time. Thanks for all you do.

    I have a tip for your readers. I tried the liquid detergent (borax, washing soda and dawn) and love it. I saw the lovely dispenser your have for it in the article featuring the recipe and searched for something similar. Thanks to you, I just couldn’t justify spending the money on a new thing that would look beautiful, but not add to my budget. Then it hit me. I had just used up one of the 1.45 gallon detergent containers that you can buy from COSTCO that have the little spigot built in. I poured my batch of EC liquid detergent and it works great. I’ve since collected 2 other similar containers and can make 4 gallons at a time. It’s not as pretty as your beautiful glass iced tea dispenser, but it gets the job done and fits in with my laundry room just fine.

    Thanks again. Now I have to get back to cleaning — no more procrastination 😉

    Best,
    AG in MI

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  3. Ruth Pennington Haydon says:

    I am definitely a 10! I find to do lists from six months ago and 8 of the 10 items are still on my to do list! I take two steps forward and three back! I finally had my sewing and crafting room organized and then my daughter urgently needed the bookcase where I had put all my material. It is now in piles again waiting for me to find a new solution that I can afford. Oh well, tomorrow is another day…..

    But I am finally getting my finances in order. It is a four year plan to get out of debt, but the available credit on all my accounts is creeping up and the balance is going down. At the same time (spurred by health issues), I have joined Weight Watchers in May and I have started exercising. I am down 16 pounds and hope to hit goal weight by my 65th birthday (12/15) and be debt free a year later — Yaay!

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  4. bigmama-chicago says:

    I float between 1 and 10 all the time because my procrastination is determined by priorities. I hover between 1 and 2 on things I gotta do, 3 to 6 on things I should do soon, and 6 to infinity (10 is not even in the equation) on the rest. I’ve been cleaning my closets since 2012. Thank God my bills are all on Autopay..but tha’ts bad too. I never look at them. I’ll try your method…..if I can remember.

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  5. Michelle Lauffer says:

    Let’s see…for years my motto has been ‘If it weren’t for us procrastinators, the last minute would be good for nothing.’ I have to joke about it because my alternative would be to hate myself for it. For me, it’s all about getting everything perfect for everyone around me…and the last minute is left for what I need accomplished. I know this is unhealthy for me and I try to change but that nagging need to be there for everyone else triumphs. I’m not giving up, just being honest. So, yes, for the first time in my life, I can say – I’m a 10!

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  6. Judi Gant says:

    You nailed it for me! I hover between 5-10. I will start my new habit of writing down all expenses by getting a spiffy new notebook. There are so many pretty designs now that school supplies are abundant! I have used so many common sense tips from your emails! Thank you so much!!

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  7. John McKee says:

    I’m a 5. Habits do take care of the routine things, shopping, paying bills, going to church. It’s the non-routine things that are so tough. I have tried many things. A ToDo list was fun, but didn’t do the job, even one that had a system of priorities. But I have developed a partial solution. With each day I tackle a major problem. This is a problem that may take me several days to complete. I stay with the problem until it is completed. If I find that I can never block out a time to make any significant dent in it, then I find a way to do bits and pieces. For instance, the repair of a window. You cannot leave the window in an unfinished state. I figured out a way to use screws instead of nail to replace the outside window trim and sill. This way, whenever I had an hour or two, I could work on it.

    In addition to major projects, I have an ongoing list of things that need some time, but are not major. I never list them all – its a never ending list. I put 4-5 of them on an app called “Regularly”, and purposely put them 1-2 weeks out. My next one up is to assy a ramp for our Mini-van. It is not the most important thing, it’s just the next thing. My habit is to try to do 1-2 of these each day, in addition to time spent on the major task.

    If you don’t have access to the app “Regularly”, simply put 4-5 tasks on a post-it note and stick to your refrigerator door. Cross them off as you do them. You may only get 4-5 a week done, but that’s progress.

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  8. kasaan says:

    8, At night in bed I think of all the things I want to get done but in the morning I simply can’t think of a thing. I note them on a pad by the bed but always find “other” things I need to do first and end up not doing anything. Later, when it’s too late I “remember” all the things I jotted down.

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    • Guest says:

      Oh I hear you on that. And you know when I think of all the things I should be doing RIGHT NOW? When I have a major deadline on a book or article and I am chained to this computer. All I want to do is go clean a toilet! Hehe.

      Reply
  9. Beachball Blond says:

    I’m somewhere in between and on both ends. Depends what it is. Don’t mind most things that have to do with using my hands….dishes, laundry, cleaning, etc. It’s time I use for contemplation. I can be a tenacious researcher on a subject I’m interested in. But my filing builds up until it’s almost time for my tax appointment, then watch out! I have the most detailed, itemized files to hand over to my tax preparer. Doing things as a deadline nears is when I do some of my best work….while procrastinating I guess my subconscious is mapping out the best route.

    Reply
    • Guest says:

      I think it is adrenaline. I need adrenaline to get thing done! And I don’t get a good surge of the stuff until I’m face-to-face with a deadline. Oh why am I like that!?

      Reply
  10. Nanabraska says:

    Oh baby…I’m afraid I may be a 10. It’s not just not wanting to do something new, it that I forget I’m suppose to do it. A double whammie!

    Reply
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