Procrastination is one of the Poisonous P’s that I am an expert in because I was a master procrastinator. In my financial practice, I now tell all my clients that the word “someday” is a disease that will take your dreams of financial wealth away.
I can explain what goes on in the minds of procrastinators. I could show someone an unbelievable analysis to drastically increase their chances of obtaining wealth, and they will take that folder and say, “Thank you so much for showing me this, I will implement this strategy (someday) soon.” Then I see them 10 years later, and they are in the same exact financial position because they haven’t started yet, and now they will have to do double and triple just to catch up.
Just like me pushing September through January’s study load to February, their cycle will continue until they are 55 years old with nothing saved. The dream of being able to retire by age 65 has now gone away and working hard for the rest of their lives until they die is becoming a reality.
To the other procrastinators who are reading this book, I believe we love instant gratification. We procrastinate because we want instant gratification. If building wealth is the goal, then we want wealth tomorrow. We typically live for the moment with no memory of the past.
We care most about things being easy, no stress, and fun.
Panic: The Last Line of Defense Against Procrastination
Here is a breakthrough statement for all the procrastinators with obtaining wealth as the goal: Sometimes you have to fight that urge of doing things that are easy, no stress, and fun and force yourselves to do things that are harder, stressful, and less pleasant for the sake of obtaining the big goal.
Procrastinators have a problem with this the most. When a procrastinator is doing something other than the important task at hand, it is because they want things to be easy, no stress, and fun. That distracting activity that they choose to do is not real fun because later they realize it’s unearned and experience feelings of guilt, anxiety, dread, and self-hatred.
Panic can be a healthy response to battling procrastination, like when I realized I had a week left to study for my business school final exam.
Panic is like those white blood cells that come in to protect your body when you have an illness. Sometimes they can protect you, and sometimes they can’t and you die. White blood cells form to help fight an illness and disease that infects your body.
People panic when it is the last line of defense against procrastination. It’s a risky strategy to wait until you panic because sometimes the pressure can be too great to overcome. This is the procrastinators process that circles over and over:
• Important task assigned that will improve overall situation
• Delay the task by choosing an activity that’s easy, no stress, and fun
• Feelings of guilt, anxiety, dread, self-hatred settle in
• Return to important task assigned that will improve overall situation
• Delay the task by choosing an activity that’s easy, no stress, and fun, etc.
Deadlines Help Fight Procrastination
My task assigned that would improve my overall situation was to pass my final exam. There was a deadline of Feb. 6. When there is a deadline, the negative effects of procrastination are limited and contained because the task assigned will eventually end.
What if there was no deadline to the task assigned? For example, what if your task was to lose weight, make an impact on the world, or build wealth? None of those tasks assigned have deadlines. The effects of procrastination could be very detrimental because it would continue to strengthen, and the negative feelings of guilt, anxiety, dread, and selfhatred will pile up over time and magnify. Panic, your last line of defense, might not ever arrive until it’s too late because there is no deadline.
I have sat down with so many people in their 60s and 70s who wanted to build wealth but never got started. They have intense frustration and anger with what procrastinating has done to their lives. The frustration is not that they couldn’t achieve wealth, it’s that they couldn’t even get started chasing wealth. Without a real deadline, procrastination can be like a long-distance foot race runner with no finish line. The rationale becomes, “Who wants to keep running forever, so why start?”
“Procrastination can be the source of a lot of long-term unhappiness and regrets.” – Tim Urban, blogger, “Inside the Mind of a Master Procrastinator.”
You’re Never Too Young to Start Building Wealth
Procrastination has made people feel like a spectator of their own lives. That is why shows such as Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous, Real Housewives, and Million Dollar Listing are popular, especially to procrastinators, because it’s easy, less stress, and fun to watch, and they become spectators.
For a long time, I had a difficult time building wealth with younger clients because they would view the extended time horizon as an infinity of years in front of them, so it was challenging to incentivize them to start building now. Their philosophy was to do what is comfortable, easy, and no-stress now. Why should they have any type of intensity or serious focus—because they have forever to build wealth? Just like me having five months to study for my exam—why start studying in the first month?
I remembered asking one of my younger clients named Sarah that if building wealth is the goal, does she agree starting earlier would increase her chances of achieving the goal? She said, “Yes, Edward, that is obvious.”
Then I would say, “Okay, well, let’s start saving, protecting, and investing now because you agree that your chances of achieving wealth would increase if we started now.”
Then she would say, “Well, what if I die before I had a chance to spend my money, and I wasted my life by saving and building?
Then I said, “Good point, so let’s weigh the options because anything you do half-heartedly in life will produce halfhearted results.”
Option #1 is you save and build now, and later have much more money to spend and enjoy for the rest of your life.
Option #2 is you don’t save and try to enjoy the little money you have now and risk running out of money later.
Option #3 is you save and build now but die before you reach the finish line of achieving wealth.
I asked which option is the worst and which option is the best if they come true. She said #3 is the worst because all her saving would have been for nothing because she dies and never reaches wealth. She said, “Edward, I have an option that is better than all three. How about I enjoy the little bit of money I have now while I am young, and later when I get older, I can start saving and investing so that I do not eventually run out of money?”
I said, “Sarah, you already agreed that starting to build and save earlier would increase your chances of achieving your goal of wealth building. Wouldn’t you want to set yourself up with the greatest chances possible of achieving your goals?”
She said, “Yeah, you are right. I just wouldn’t want to miss out on the things that I can have now.”
Sarah, like many other people, wants instant gratification, which translates into wanting to speed on the highway of life without any preparation for the trip. You don’t plan for any unexpected bumps in life, and you end up running out of gas at the worst possible time.
A children’s story comes to mind when I think about Sarah. It’s called The Ant and the Grasshopper. The story is about a grasshopper who came to the ants begging for food and shelter because she danced and played all summer long and didn’t put in the work to prepare herself for winter. In contrast, the ants worked hard all summer, and little by little, they saved up for a harsh winter.
They prepared food and built shelter, and the grasshopper who danced and had fun had nothing at the end. So, the moral of the story is, if you choose to dance and spend money now because you want things to be easy, no stress, and fun, then you might be left with nothing later when it really counts since you never took the steps to prepare early enough.
Sarah’s vision of her finances is stuck to this day. A lot of the reason why people procrastinate and don’t take real, practical, common-sense efforts toward building wealth is that they don’t see themselves wealthy in the future. They haven’t visualized what that would feel like yet.
They think, “Oh, that would be nice if I were wealthy,” but there is a difference between, “Oh that would be nice if I were wealthy,” and “I own my dream of being wealthy.” You don’t luck into that. There is no casual approach to that. You have to feel it, see it, and sense it happening to you so you can step into it.
It’s About the Journey
People fear efforts could be wasted saving and building now at the present moment because they might not get to the finish line of real wealth building. I remind them that it’s never about the destination, it is always about the journey. There is an old wise saying that the harder the struggle, the more glorious the triumph.
“Success is a journey, not a destination. The doing is often more important than the outcome” – Arthur Ashe.
Who taught them it’s about the destination? Building wealth may not always be good-looking. It doesn’t look like a lot, but it feels like a lot. It is simply little inches, steps forward, and incremental advancements. Procrastinators want the instant gratification. They want the destination immediately, and the day that they don’t feel the destination is near, they become discouraged.
The most important thing about wealth building is starting now. Procrastinators want their dream of achieving wealth to be delivered like an Amazon package.
What are you willing to sacrifice in order to achieve your goal of building wealth? Are you willing to sacrifice quick, short-term pleasures of purchases for long-term financial success and stability?
Action Steps to Overcome Procrastination
We procrastinate because we want instant gratification. Sometimes you have to fight that urge of doing things that are easy, no stress, and fun and force yourselves to do things that are harder, stressful, and less pleasant for the sake of obtaining the big goal. Make a list of things you procrastinated on and how it impacted your wealth.
There is an old wise saying that, the harder the struggle, the more glorious the triumph. Identify three areas in your life you had the most struggle. Find and engage with a mentor in each of those areas. Your mentors could be people who have overcome the struggles you
experienced. The feedback you get could help you avoid the same struggles as well as provide you with insight into how to do better.
This article was excerpted from Wealth Building For Beginners and published by permission of Edward R. Williams.
About the Author:
Author and financial planner Edward R. Williams set out to write his book, “Wealth Building For Beginners,” to help individuals and families achieve greater wealth based on techniques he developed over his 23-year career as a financial planner. During and before the worldwide health crisis, Edward toured the country to provide financial education to churches and schools. Giving back to the community and those in need is part of his lifelong mission to ensure people do not make the same mistakes he made when starting out.