We've all done it: Put off something until tomorrow that could have been done today. Often it seems as if there's no cost to procrastination—but we know better. Stephen Richards, in his book Overcoming Procrastination, wrote “Habitual procrastinators will readily testify to all the lost opportunities, missed deadlines, failed relationships and even monetary losses incurred just because of one nasty habit of putting things off until it is often too late.”
Home repairs. Your home is full of things that break: Shingles blow off a roof, a bathroom drain develops a small leak, the kitchen tile gets cracked. If you don't fix it now, you could be looking at major repair bills later.
Household chores. Cleaning or changing your heating or air-conditioning filter only takes a few minutes. Putting it off means higher electric bills and could even cause your blower motor to die. A little time and money now will reduce your heating and cooling bills later.
Routine tasks. Too tired to look up your checking account balance? Didn't feel like looking for a stamp for the one bill that you need to mail in? Don't be surprised if you trigger a bounced check or late fee.
Home organization. Clutter can take many forms: stacks of paper, “miscellaneous” drawers, overflowing closets. If you can't find it when you need it, you'll waste time and money replacing it.
Planning meals. It takes a few minutes each week to put a meal plan together, but if you don't you'll find you spend more in the grocery store and at your local take-out spot.
Preventive safety. Shower seats don’t get much use until someone falls. However, waiting a while to install them could mean a hospital bill and a long recovery for someone.
Home security. It takes time to install security lights and an alarm. But even with homeowners insurance you'll deal with a deductible, a lot of paperwork, and the sense of being violated if your home is burglarized.
Retirement planning. Financial planners will tell you that starting young makes retirement planning (and saving) easier. But, in your twenties or thirties it's easy to think retirement is too far in the future to consider. In your forties and fifties, it seems like it might already be too late. Putting off planning for your later years could have nasty consequences when it comes time to retire.
Spending controls. Although the credit card balance is a little higher each month, no one is forcing you to look at your spending and begin to control it. At least not until you trigger penalty rates and face a 25 percent interest rate on your balance.
Procrastination in managing big expenses. You can't watch TV without seeing an ad reminding you to compare insurance rates or refinance your mortgage. If you haven't done so within the last year, you could be spending hundreds of dollars needlessly.
Clearly, we've all put off tasks at one time or another. Sometimes the job seemed too big. Other times it was unpleasant. Whatever the reason, there are ways to overcome the desire to procrastinate. Consider these four:
No task gets better with time. Whether it's a messy closet or a leaky roof, the problem causes won't go away. In fact, most get bigger, so the sooner you attack it the easier the job will be.
No one is born that way. We've all put off things. Sadly, some of us have made it a habit. But that doesn't mean we're cosmically predestined to always procrastinate. Start the job early and take it from there.
No task is too big. At least, not if you break it down into bite size pieces. Take the first step today; then congratulate yourself for starting and promise yourself to take the second step tomorrow.
No task is too nasty. We all have jobs we don't like, but putting them off doesn't make them more agreeable. Try tackling these tasks in small portions, so you’ll feel you’re making progress throughout the job.
Therefore, you can overcome procrastination and it's unnecessary costs—it's just a matter of starting now.
Gary Foreman is a former financial planner who founded TheDollarStretcher.com. The site features thousands of articles on how to save your valuable time and money, including more on procrastination and time management.