Monthly Archives: October 2014

The Real Costs of Procrastination: Installment #1

Procrastination Business Image

Most of us do it every day. Procrastinate.  We tell ourselves “I’ll get to that later” and most of the time we do.  But what happens if we don’t?  What if we procrastinate too long?   What are the costs?  We try to convince ourselves that there’s little-to-no cost of procrastination, but there are many costs, some very tangible, others more subtle.

Here’s the first 5 of my top 10 list of areas we shouldn’t procrastinate on and the cost if we do.  Look for installment #2 next week.

Relationship support:  How many times have we heard (in real life and movies) people bemoaning the fact that they didn’t tell their loved ones how much they meant to them and now it’s too late.  Certainly, this is the worst-case scenario of procrastination.  But what about the every day costs to our relationships that procrastinating causes:  the partner that agreed to pick up the dry cleaning on the way home and procrastinates until the cleaner is closed; the parent who agreed to bake for the school event and procrastinates until it’s too late and disappoints their child by providing store-bought treats instead of the home-made they’d promised their classmates; the friend that promises to make a dinner reservation for a special event and procrastinates until the restaurant can’t accommodate the request.  Yes, these are all small things, but significant in relationship-building.  Cost of procrastination:  Trust

Health:  As a breast cancer survivor, I am keenly aware of the cost of putting off health-related appointments.  I’m lucky I didn’t procrastinate too long, but without repeated, significant nagging from my doctor, I very well could have.  Regular health screenings and preventative maintenance like flu and pneumonia shots are critical to our well-being so they shouldn’t be put off until we think there will be a more convenient time.  I’ve heard that some people attempt to schedule all their medical check-ups  on their birthday.  What better gift could we give ourselves than the gift of good health?  Cost of procrastination:  Poor health.

Household Chores:  I don’t know anyone that likes to clean the gutters.  Cleaning gutters involves a ladder, dragging it around the house, possibly getting on the roof (I recommend hiring an expert if your gutters need to be cleaned from the roof), and smelly, wet leaves.   And, as gutter-cleaning procrastinators, we generally end up doing it in the dark and in the rain because that’s when we notice that the rainwater is overflowing the drain pipes.  Wouldn’t it have been much easier to have cleaned the gutters on a nice, sunny Saturday before the rain starts?  From personal experience, I can tell you it is.  It’s not just gutters we need to worry about.  Not cleaning furnace filters will result in reduced productivity and higher energy bills.  Not cleaning the dryer vents may results in a lint fire.  Not checking the water softener will results in spotty glasses. The list goes on and on.  Cost of procrastination:  Stress, money and safety

Home/Car Repairs:  Things break.  It’s a fact of life.  Whether it’s the toaster, the sink,  or the car, stuff just happens and we have to deal with it.  The cost of not fixing or replacing a faulty toaster could be everything from just not having toast in the morning to getting shocked while trying to retrieve the toast with a kitchen fork (strongly NOT recommended!).  The costs of not fixing a leaky sink could be just a minor annoyance to extensive damage caused by the leak damaging cabinetry or walls.  The cost of not repairing squeaky brakes could be devastating to the health and safety of ourselves and our  loved ones should the brakes fail.  Cost of procrastination:  Money, major home/car repairs,  and safety.

Organization (my personal favorite):  According to a study conducted by a Boston marketing firm, the average American burns 55 minutes per day – roughly 12 weeks a year – looking for things they know they own but can’t find. (Newsweek, 6/7/04).  As a professional organizer, my job is to help people get their home and business lives organized and under control.  Disorganization manifests itself in many ways:  wasted time because we can’t find things; finance charges because we didn’t pay our bills on time; late fees for not returning a library book or DVD; money wasted replacing things we already own because we couldn’t find them when we needed them; and trust because we didn’t finish a project on time due to dysfunctional time management.   Being organized means we can find things when we need them; we can do the things we need to do when they need to be done; and we can get the places we need to get on time.   Cost of procrastination:  Time, money, and trust

The costs of procrastination can be everything from minor annoyances to the devastating loss of trust.  Fortunately, procrastination can be managed.  It requires scheduling, initiative, and a drive to do better, but it can be done.

The best way to stop procrastinating?  Just get started.  Getting started will provide the momentum to finish.  Unfinished tasks are uncomfortable for us.  Once we get started, we have the drive to finish.

Look for The Real Costs of Procrastination:  Installment #2 next week.

Cindy Jobs

Organize to Simplify RGB

Member Color - WebNational Association of Professional Organizers, Seattle Chapter President
 ICD_LogoTag_Horz_72 websiteCertified Premium Subscriber, Institute for Challenging Disorganization

Why Do We Procrastinate?


Raise your hand if you’ve ever procrastinated starting a project, sending an e-mail, or cleaning a closet?  I know my hand went in the air for all three of those things and I consider myself a pretty efficient and on-top-of-it-all kind of gal.  At times we all succumb to the pesky practice of procrastination.

Why do we procrastinate?

  • We’ll feel more motivated tomorrow.
  • We work better under pressure.
  • We don’t have all the tools we need to get the project done.
  • The project is just too big.

How many more can you think of?  Several, I’ll bet.  I think we can all acknowledge that these are excuses, not reasons, for not getting things done.  What’s the reality behind each of the above?

We’ll feel more motivated tomorrow:  Well, we probably won’t.  If we didn’t want to do it today, we more than likely won’t want to do it tomorrow.  What’s going to change in 24 hours that will make the task more inviting and stimulating?  Nothing.  How successful are we at predicting how we will feel in the future?  Generally, not very good.  Plus, we don’t know what additional roadblocks may come our way that would cause an even more negative impact.  What we need to do is think about why we are delaying starting the project, identify any emotional or physical roadblocks, then remove them.  More than likely we stumble over emotional roadblocks due the uncertainty of how to accomplish the task. Postponing alone won’t resolve that roadblock.

We work better under pressure:  Studies show we don’t.  Things generally take longer than we anticipate and are more complex than we give them credit for.  When we leave things to the last minute we rush, make more mistakes, and generally deliver an inferior product because we didn’t have (or make) the time necessary to do the job right.  Is that the image you want to project to your employer, family, or friends?  Probably not.  Working under pressure causes extreme stress.  Starting the task or project early, identifying the demands of the project, and working frequently and methodically, will result in a better result.  Leaving the last look and finishing touches until the last minute may be okay, but leaving starting until the last minute won’t help deliver the best product.

We don’t have all the tools we need to get the job done:  Well, maybe we don’t, but not having the tools readily at hand doesn’t mean we can’t start.  What we CAN do is start the project by breaking it down into steps, identify what tools or resources you need to complete those steps, and make a plan to get started, including scheduling it on your calendar.  Not having everything we need isn’t an excuse for doing nothing.

The project is just too big:  Sometimes the task just seem too big and that’s understandable.  Some projects are quite large and very daunting, but that doesn’t mean it’s impossible to accomplish.  I heard a great example from Timothy A. Pychyl, Ph.D (an expert on procrastination) about trimming his dogs toenails.  He has 10 sled dogs, each with 20 toenails.  Thinking about trimming 200 toe nails was too much; but breaking it down into smaller chunks of two dogs per day (40 toenails) made it a much more manageable task.  So, even though the entire project may seem like too much, breaking it down into smaller, more achievable tasks will help.

Do you see yourself in any of the above scenarios?  I know I do.  The key is determining what is holding you back and work through it.  How do we do that?

Just Get Started

Although it sounds simple, sometimes that’s all it takes.  Just getting started will provide the momentum to finish.  Unfinished tasks are uncomfortable for us, so once we get started, we have the drive and desire to finish.

Look for my next installment:  “The Costs of Procrastination”

There are many, many costs to procrastination, including professional, financial and emotional.  All of which can be avoided.

Cindy Jobs

Organize to Simplify RGB

Member Color - WebNational Association of Professional Organizers, Seattle Chapter President
 ICD_LogoTag_Horz_72 websiteCertified Premium Subscriber, Institute for Challenging Disorganization