Don’t take my money. Yet.
Paying bills…. Picture the scene.
A letter from your energy supplier lies on the table. You know it’s from them, because you see the logo.
You know it’s a bill, because it’s that time of the month.
And yet you cannot bring yourself to handle it – at least not right now.
Eventually the pain of not paying becomes greater than the pleasure of procrastination, but for some even the threat of late fines or disagreements with flatmates is not pressure enough to get it done.
You’re not alone.
And the psychology behind it is fascinating.
According to Timothy A. Pychyl, PhD, a psychology professor at Carleton University, in Ottawa, and the author of The Procrastinator’s Digest: A Concise Guide to Solving the Procrastination Puzzle, when faced with something unpleasant to do, a battle commences between two parts of the brain.
The one that tends to win is the one that provides “immediate mood repair” — i.e. the one that makes you feel good, or better.
So what’s going on in this brain battle?
In the one corner, you have the limbic system. This is the unconscious part of your brain which includes the pleasure centre. It’s responsible for your feelings, and your motivation — to do, or not to do, something.
In the other corner, you have the prefrontal cortex, the practical part of the brain that separates us from animals and acts like your internal planner. It’s newer, so takes being kicked into gear.
Unfortunately, the limbic system plays Muhammad Ali to the prefrontal’s George Foreman; in other words, it’s older, more dominant, and on automatic pilot, so wins most of the time. Which means you’re way more likely to put things off.
So what can we do to resist the urge to procrastinate paying bills?
Mindfulness is slowly being recognised as a powerful way to win the battle over your auto-pilot responses and fight procrastination. The more you listen to the battles going on in your mind, the more likely you are to be able to interrupt patterns.
You could also practice a bit of pragmatism and outsource. Instead of investing time into building a habit of loving bills, throw up your hands and admit it’s just not your strong point — or what you want to be spending your time on. Outsource you bill admin to services like HomeHero or a virtual PA, and focus on spending time on things that have the biggest impact on your life.
Because you’re more than the sum of your bill-paying parts.
HomeHero is a digital home manager, taking care of your chores, bills, maintenance and admin, to free up your time for what matters most.