5 Devious Mental Blocks That Make You Procrastinate With Your Finances (And How To Defeat Them)



This is a guest post by Ivan Chan. Ivan is the founder of Wealthy Without Worry, a Star Wars fan and a martial artist. In his latest quest, Ivan teaches professionals how to make smart money decisions that fit their lifestyles. Check out what he does here.

You know you should get it done.

But instead, you’re on your computer clicking mindlessly away. It’s hard to focus. You just can’t get going no matter how much you try.

The feeling of guilt is starting to take over. You know you shouldn’t put things off. And yet, you just can’t help it. Something always seems to come up and distract you. Your favorite TV show is on. Your phone rings. The sky starts raining…

Yet, all of those reasons sound fake. That’s because you know the truth.

You know you really weren’t as busy as you claim.

The Secret Reason Why You Procrastinate

Your logic is clearly telling you to take action, but you still don’t. So what’s wrong?

No, it’s not because you’re stupid. It’s not because you don’t know any better. It’s not even because you’re lazy (well, maybe a little).

It’s because you are human. And humans aren’t always logical. Sometimes your own thinking gets in the way. In other words, psychological hurdles could be the reason why you procrastinate.

Psychological hurdles aren’t physical in the way a wall prevents you from walking right through it. But they are real and they do prevent you from getting things done. They are often hard to recognize, too.

Let me give you an example.

Almost every financial expert out there preaches the importance of checking your credit report once a year. I wholeheartedly agree with them. It IS a good thing to do. Everyone SHOULD review theirs. Yet, I had NEVER checked my credit report in my life until recently.

I know I’m not alone: nearly HALF of all Americans don’t know their credit score or look at their report. According to the FTC, 1 in 5 people have errors in their credit report that they don’t know about. And yet many people still do nothing about it.

What’s up with that?

Hurdle #1 – “I Don’t Know What to Do”

Sometimes not knowing what to do IS a valid reason… for about 5 seconds, that is.

After that, it becomes a psychological hurdle.

You can whine all day about not knowing what to do. People might even pity you for, you know, about 5 seconds. But your whining doesn’t actually change anything. It is only giving you a seemingly valid reason to KEEP DOING NOTHING.

With my credit report…

I honestly didn’t know what to do at first. I had no idea how to order it, what it would cost, or even how to interpret the darn thing once I get it. Soon, my reasons – however valid they might have been at the beginning – are now stopping me from actually taking action and educating myself.

Procrastination? You betcha.

Key takeaway: Psychological hurdles lead to procrastination. You need be PROACTIVE in recognizing and removing them. Just make sure you actually remove them (and NOT REPLACE them with new hurdles like I did, as you will soon see).

Hurdle #2 – “I Need To Figure It Out First”

Have you ever told yourself you’ll do something as soon as you “figure it out”?

Well, if you’re like most people, that thing never got done. In fact, you might feel a bit sheepish now that I’ve brought it up. You’re smart. So why can’t you “figure it out”?

The problem is not that you’re dumb and can’t figure it out. The issue is because you haven’t given yourself a clear directive.

What does “figure it out” even mean anyway? It SOUNDS reasonable until you try to implement it. Then you realize this instruction is so vague that it is virtually useless. You’re still stuck at square one, only with more guilt and still with nothing accomplished.

With my credit report…

Once I realize I was being held back by the first hurdle discussed above, I thought, I’ll make a note on my to-do list to “figure out credit report”.

Well, the intention was smart, but the action was useless.

Needless to say, I still didn’t do anything after weeks had passed. And now I have this stupid task on my to-do list that just sits there, slowly getting pushed lower down the list as I (figuratively) bury my head in the sand.

Key takeaway: If a hurdle is holding you back from your goal, you need to be SPECIFIC about how to remove it. Otherwise, you wouldn’t actually do anything about it.

Hurdle #3 – “I’ll Do This When I Have Time”

Here is everyone’s dirty little secret: We NEVER have time. Specifically, we never have time for things we aren’t excited about.

Time for your favorite show? Of course! Time for a whole weekend of partying with your buddies? You bet! Time for your sweetheart? Gee, I hope so!

Time for that whatever-something you don’t really want to deal with? Never. And that’s human nature. Is this logical? Heck no! But we knew that already. Psychological hurdles are the reason why people do seemingly illogical things.

With my credit report…

I finally came to my senses and replaced my “figure out credit report” task with a few smaller, more specific ones. Here’s what I decided:

  1. Find out what reporting agencies there are.
  2. Decide which one I should contact.
  3. Call and order the report.

I was so proud of myself at that point that I just walked away from my desk, feeling triumphant and all. A few weeks later, I still hadn’t done a single thing.

Oh Great Procrastination God: Why do you hate me?

Key takeaway: In addition to being SPECIFIC about how to remove a hurdle, you need to commit to a deadline and MAKE TIME to get things done. Please don’t tell yourself you’ll do it “As Soon As Possible.” Knowing what we’ve just learned, you should know why that rarely – if ever – works.

If you need help on freeing up time during your day, check out this free resource I have for you.

Hurdle #4 – “I Don’t Have the Tools Right Now”

One lady at my workplace once mobilized half of the office for a whole afternoon to help her find something she had lost: her stapler.

Just think: Hours upon hours of productivity was wasted because she wouldn’t walk to the supply room to get a new stapler, one of a dozen sitting unused on a table.

Illogical? No kidding. Psychological hurdle? You know it.

With my credit report…

With the deadlines I’ve set for myself, I have now actually gotten some of my tasks done. I did my research and had decided on which agency to contact. I will finally get my credit report… after I find the right phone number to call, that is.

Someday, I’ll dig up that phone number and make the call. But not today. My credit report will just have to wait…

Key takeaway: How often do you put something off because you don’t have the right tool, information, or (*gasp*) your own stapler nearby? You’ve conquered every hurdle up until now. This is the last mile. Get everything you need in one place so you’re ready to work.

Don’t give yourself an excuse to procrastinate!

Hurdle #5 – “I Don’t Know If It Will Work”

This one is classic.

Just when you’ve finally gotten your act together, you get stage fright. All of a sudden, you’re completely uncertain of what you’re about to do. You have all the knowledge you need. You have all the tools. But you don’t have the courage.

You can almost see the finish line, but your legs give out and down you go.

SO close…

With my credit report…

I’ve found the right phone number to call at last. Everything is ready to go… except it’s a Saturday. They don’t answer the phones on Saturday, do they? Of course, I didn’t know for sure. But I’m pretty sure they wouldn’t, right?

Maybe I should wait until Monday to do this…

Key takeaway: Ultimately, all the preparation in the world will only get you to the proverbial performance stage. It’s still up to you to get up there, do your thing, and earn that standing ovation. Otherwise, all your work up to this point will be for nothing.

Don’t THINK, just DO!

Smash Through Your Hurdles

Ask yourself honestly:

What are you putting off in your life that you know you SHOULD be doing?

Maybe it’s clearing out all the crap in your garage. Maybe it’s dealing with your credit-card debt. Maybe it’s finally living the life you have always dreamed of but have never tasted for real.

Whatever it is, why are you waiting?

If it’s something that is truly out of your control, then that’s fine. We can’t control everything that goes on in our lives, after all. But if you’re procrastinating because of a psychological hurdle, then you have to take action.

Live The Life You Want

I had a long (and stupid) battle with my psychological hurdles. But in the end, I won. And the whole experience has taught me something profound.

Everyone of us has hurdles, big and small.

They stop us from getting what we want in life. So what are you going to do about them?

Would you turn a blind eye to your clutter? Or would you finally tackle that pile of crap once and for all?

Would you hide from your debt? Or would you fight back with everything you’ve got because you are sick and tired of bleeding your money away?

Would you live out the rest of your life with a whimper? Or would you stand up for what your life is meant to be with a bang?

Remember: This is your life, and it’s ticking away day by day. You can’t just sit here any more. You need to do something about this. No more procrastination. No more wasting time.


Today, you take control.

Today, you live the life that you want.

Right. Freaking. Now.

14 thoughts on “5 Devious Mental Blocks That Make You Procrastinate With Your Finances (And How To Defeat Them)”

  1. I was born the daughter of the King of Procrastination. I remember a new curtain rod my mother purchased laying, uninstalled, beneath the living room window FOR A YEAR! It wasn’t until my mother threatened to hire someone that my father finally put it up.

    I’ve had to fight those tendencies. While I’m much better at fighting those demons today, they still sit on my shoulder!

    Ree ~ I blog at EscapingDodge.com

    1. LOL, I can totally relate, Ree! Thanks for sharing!

      We often start with the best intentions, but then… nothing. It’s like we have 5 minutes of enthusiasm for anything but when that time is up, we’re content with letting things sit while we procrastinate.

      That being said, these tendencies of ours are probably going to stick around for a while. We’ll just have to manage them so they don’t prevent us from doing things that really matter.

  2. Yay!

    I am 26 years old from Quebec and really inspired by this website, the movie I’m fine thanks and the blogs and posts from other authors!

    I Just finished paying 20K inconsummer debt, now getting richer and raising money (spending less, sold a lot of crap) to have a life that suits me a little (a lot) more…Quiting a job I don’t like, going travelling to Asia for 6 months next winter and then go back to school in another field of interest I want to explore!
    When I remember and think about my big goal, I do stop procrastinating. That’s my motivation. Even for my credit check… I just filled the form and, trust me, it’s wasn’t THAT bad!


    1. Hey Emma, glad to have you here!

      We’re glad we’re making a difference for you. I seriously think that’s the most rewarding part of what we do!

      Congratulations on paying off your debt! That’s quite an accomplishment, and at such a young age too. At the rate you’re going, you certainly have a bright future ahead of you. And high five for getting that credit check! That makes two of us. You’re right that it’s not THAT bad. We just have to do it.

      Do drop by to check on us here while you’re traveling through Asia! 🙂

  3. Travis McGough

    Great article again, Ivan!

    I would just add that a lot of these hurdles are rooted in fear. We often put things off because deep down we fear some aspect of the task we need to accomplish. It could be that we fear the unknown, or we might fear failing at it, or we might even fear succeeding and being uncomfortable with finding out that we are good at something we never thought we should be good at.

    Leo Babauta at Zenhabits.net has talked about how fear paralyses us from acting in several of his posts.

    Great job again, and keep up the good work.

    1. Thanks, Travis! I’m glad you stopped by!

      You’ve hit the nail on the head on the point of fear. Some of our fears may seem silly to other people, but they are REAL to us. That’s why logic doesn’t always work. Even if we know exactly what to do, it wouldn’t matter one bit if we’re afraid to actually do it.

  4. So I have several thoughts here. First, #2, I need to figure it out first – was a big kick in the pants on a lot of my non-financial projects; and in a few cases financial issues.

    Second, you can’t actually get your credit report from a non-US IP address. So that was a big hurdle for me living abroad, and I forgot on my last two trips home (so this has been a problem for awhile). So I uh…finally artificially removed that hurdle. ehem cough; and got some of the data I was looking for.

    Third – since I live abroad, only one of the three agencies would give me a report online, the others found ‘discrepancies’ (mostly because I don’t actually live in the states and haven’t been using many of my credit cards, open or closed – and certainly not at actual brick and mortar US businesses) and wanted me to mail in an application with a bunch of documents like a utility bill proving my current address, social security card, two or five other documents…uh…yeah…so I stuck with the one that gave me an online report. It was Experian that cooperated in my case. I highly recommend it and going ahead and getting your credit score too (that’s not free like the report is) – at least, in my case, I never had so I figured it’d be good to do to see even if not annually.

    And after that, the #2 “Waiting until you figure it out” really pushed me to pursue some other things that I’ve been like oh no, I can’t do that right now. Granted, I’ve also had some circumstances change that were real, true hurdles and not just psychological ones, but it was a great reminder that I can smash some of them down now and some have been in my head.

    Great post. If anyone abroad needs to figure out magic – Google ‘VPN.’ Your welcome.

    1. Thanks! Looks you’ve got things figured out just fine, Jenny!

      You’ve certainly got a good handle on what hurdles are real and which ones are purely psychological. Great job on pushing through and getting things done. I’m proud of ya!

  5. I’ve just written a post on my blog about how I’ve been procrastinating so much lately. I was really interested to read your post just now about the psychological hurdles that may get in the way of us actually getting stuff done. I’ve been procrastinating about all sorts of things including finances. I’ve been busy paying off my debts (thankfully), but I really need to do more by making some extra cash, selling stuff on Ebay, setting up a proper tracking system for my expenditure etc. The list goes on, literally. I’ve included a link to your post in my blog, I hope that’s ok? All the best and looking forward to reading more.

  6. Yes, the link is definitely OK – thanks! I’m glad you enjoyed my piece. Don’t worry: all of us procrastinate over one thing or another!

    This is going to sound cliché, but the key to beating procrastination really is just be slow and steady. You don’t have to do everything all at once. Just pick one thing (e.g. sell one item on eBay or start tracking one expense) and do it today. Repeat that for the next item on your to-do list tomorrow. Over time, you’ll build up momentum and you’ll naturally want to keep it going. With that, you’ll have procrastination beat in no time!

  7. Great post, Ivan. Although, after reading this, I can no longer take the easy way out and just blame the God of Procrastination”-) I think No. 5 is so key — schedule the time to make it happen. Thanks again.

    1. Thanks, Rene! Nice to see you here!

      Yeah, #5 gets me all the time. Seriously, I don’t know of any other more destructive way to sabotage yourself. At that point, what’s holding you back is 100% mental – nothing else.

      Ultimately, we’ve all just got to take the plunge and see what happens!

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