Investing comes with its fair share of obstacles. If it were easy, everyone would be investing their 10-15%. But, in reality, nearly half of us don’t own a single stock.
One of the key obstacles I had to overcome in order to truly tap into the power of investing was productive procrastination.
Simply put, productive procrastination is getting a few “important” things done here and there while intentionally — or otherwise subconsciously — avoiding those tasks which are MOST important to complete.
An example I’ve used before is when I was studying for my CPA exams. Instead of buckling down on the lectures and practice questions, I found myself dusting my blinds. Don’t get me wrong, dusting the blinds was most definitely a priority (because they were disgusting), but I should’ve done it AFTER I studied that day.
This cycle repeated itself many times before I realized that productive procrastination was the name of the game I was playing with my precious time.
Here’s more on this topic as covered by our podcast:
The same held true with investing. I always knew was it was important, but I always found other ways to spend the money..
I would research which stocks to buy instead of buying any. I would focus on ways to save more money without putting that money to work for me. I would speculate on where the stock market will go tomorrow, without putting any skin in the game.
Once the problem was identified, it didn’t make the solution any more evident. That’s part of the danger with productive procrastination; it finds a way to creep into our lives daily.
So here I was, having accumulated some cash from my first full time job, but I wasn’t putting the money to work.
I had read the books, but my actions were still far from optimal.
My version of being “productive,” was to research even more books on the subject of investing as whole. I thought that if I knew a100% of the information, I would finally be able to make the correct decision.
My Solution to Productive Procrastination
Reading about investing is much like theorizing; not as beneficial as the act of investing itself. I learned this lesson from first hand experience.
Back in the day, I would receive my paycheck and express the intent to invest. I would try to piece things together, but in the end, I still hadn’t put a single dollar to work in the market.As a result, my small pile of cash was slowly growing.
A few small shifts helped me and they might help you if you’re in a similar position.
Instead of viewing investing as a big annual goal, I broke it down to a per-paycheck basis. Meaning that, instead of aiming to invest $10,000 over the year, my new goal was to invest ~$400 per paycheck.
The next step was deciding to take SOME form of action. I knew that if I decided on a suboptimal choice, I could course correct down the road by transferring funds from Account A to Account B.
The final step for me was deciding to pick one index fund and stick with it. After years of research on portfolio strategy, I settled on one fund.
With these three steps I went from, “I should invest $10,000 this year,” to, “I will invest $400 on my next paycheck into my chosen fund.”
The last two steps came later: I would make sure to not miss a paycheck and I would make sure to check back in on the plan from time to time.
By being specific, establishing a timeline, and clarifying the appropriate action, I was able to achieve the desired result.
Productive Procrastination took a backseat to Productive Investing!
Did you face similar struggles when you FIRST invested? Did you have any mental hurdles you had to overcome?