The High Cost of Procrastination

timeMost of the time, I blog about issues related to sales, social media, leadership and business in general. Though my topic has applicability for business, it is spawned by something that is very personal indeed.

Three years ago, my mom – who lives in Phoenix – fell and broke her hip. If that wasn’t bad enough, she hid it for several days until my neighbor – who had a key thank goodness – came to check and determined a serious problem. I found out on a Thursday evening, one week after the fall had happened. I learned that she was being wheeled into surgery the very next day. Living in Atlanta made the situation tough enough, but I had been called to jury duty (that I couldn’t get out of) and was required to appear that Monday. I did get to Phoenix a few days later and spent several days with mom at the rehabilitation facility. A testament to her toughness and maybe a realization that she might lose her freedom, she worked hard to get herself back in shape. She made remarkable progress.

Since that time I began to notice that my mom’s speech pattern was changing; she was struggling with words. I would ask her about it, but she merely said that the doctor had her doing word problems to help her keep up. I did my best to be very patient. She’d tell me something and then forget. Asking questions was a challenge – sometimes she’d get upset or demand to know why it was my business. I’ve since learned that these are all signs of Alzheimer’s.

As things progressed, I kept asking mom if she had met with her lawyer to put a Power of Attorney for both her medical and financial affairs in place. Though there was a limited health instrument in place in case of problems with her surgery, I knew that didn’t cover anything after that. Mom would sort of giggle and say she kept meaning to do it and promised to get it done soon, but somehow that never happened. Then, the unthinkable. My mom completely lost it, had to be hospitalized and was subsequently diagnosed with Alzheimer’s in early May. She is now in an assisted living facility and finally safe from hurting herself.

Procrastination means to put off till another day or time; defer or delay action.

I’m as guilty as anyone in putting things off that I feel are too difficult or unpleasant to deal with at that moment. I secretly hope I can avoid it all. Sadly, the consequences of such avoidance can be severe. In my mom’s case, paperwork that does not clearly define who she wanted to manage her affairs means that the legal system steps in. Maybe that’s good; maybe it isn’t. We’re lucky! An excellent attorney is working on my mom’s behalf, but the job is made cumbersome trying to track down paperwork through a brother who realizes he gains nothing and so does nothing to help. This will all be set right soon enough, but it certainly makes me realize how important it is to take care of paperwork that ensures that the people who care about you can help you. I’ve download the paperwork for a more current will and a durable (this is important!) Power of Attorney. What about you – are your papers in order?

What do you lose every day in business when you procrastinate?

The negative implications for procrastination on the job is high and not without consequence. How many times have you let a potential sales opportunity slip through the cracks? What stops you from making those follow up phone calls to people you just met at a networking event? How many times have you avoided calling a prospect to follow up that proposal you wrote, because you were afraid that the answer might be no. How many times have you been reluctant to have a tough conversation with someone, so you kept putting if off even when dialing the number and getting it over with would have freed up so much wasted energy? You see. That’s the problem. Procrastination just delays the inevitable and sometimes (as in the case with my mom’s health) makes it worse. And the more we wait, the more energy is wasted and the more compounded the problem can become.

Lao-tzu’s Tao Te Ching tells us that we must take action and do things when they are small, and reminds us all that the journey of a thousand miles begins with just one step. Whatever you are procrastinating about at this very moment whether it is business or family – PLEASE handle it now!


  1. says

    More than a decade ago, I interviewed, for a story about businesswomen, their accomplishments and their challenges, a well-known Atlanta real estate broker. During the conversation, I asked her what she thought was the biggest negative in business relationships (not just for women, but in general), and without a second’s hesitation, she said: “procrastination”. It was her belief that routinely some 50% of potentially great business was “left on the table” because of procrastination on the part of one or both of the parties.

    It would not surprise me if this were true.

    Good reminder, Barb, and best wishes for your mother’s wellbeing.

  2. says

    First of all of course sorry to hear about your mum and AD. Having worked for several years in medical imaging for Alzheimer’s I know what the disease does to the brain.

    I’m all with Lya on the cost of procrastination in business: just this morning I went through my list of “homework not delivered yet” (I do business consulting for small businesses, and despite the fact that they pay me a lot of money, they still don’t do their homework….) and found that despite my chasing some go back to February this year.

    Unfortunately, that is typical for a lot of small (one (wo)man band) businesses: too much on the plate, so all the stuff that sounds like ‘work’ just gets left behind.

    all the best


  3. says


    I am writing a book on Power of Attorney, including Health Care POA, and found this blog story during my research.

    I am literally on my last day finishing this chapter. I apologize for the very short notice (talk about procrastination). J

    I just wanted to know if I could have your permission to use this story in the book as a ‘case study’. If you have any questions you can reach me at (508) 528-5445 or by email at


    Ron Wainrib, Esq.
    Franklin, MA 02038
    (508) 528=5445

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