Procrastination can stop you from achieving so many things. It can delay action, delay a start and even delay potential income, rather than investing your energy and time into positive actions. Whilst this article is written specifically for business owners (I am a business coach after all), this article will be suitable really for anyone who procrastinates.
Work out why it (procrastination) is happening and then once you know why, you can work to find a solution.
Here are some examples of procrastination causes and some potential solutions.
Avoidance or Anxiety?
Sometimes procrastination can be about avoidance, when you fear, dread or have anxiety about a task. So you do something which makes you feel good instead. That might be visiting the refrigerator, doing an easy task (so you feel good it’s done and achieved), checking out Facebook or having a play with your four-legged friend – that’s definitely going to make you feel good. Once you know what you’re avoiding, then perhaps some discipline may come into play, or alternatively a reward. Once the task is done, you can go and do something you enjoy. Just ensure the reward occurs AFTER the action, not before. 🙂
Perhaps you are procrastinating because you just don’t know where to start, or perhaps you don’t know how to do a certain step. If it’s a case of not knowing where to start, it may help to elicit the services of an expert, mentor, friend (particularly to brainstorm ideas) or to get some training. It may not be necessarily all in your head; there is likely a good reason and once you problem-solve that situation, then you’re more likely to be able to move forward.
Sometimes we procrastinate because we are distracted. It might be our phones, emails coming in, or interruptions. One way to help clear the path to get something done is to avoid the distractions. It might be a case of turning off your phone notifications, switching email notifications to off or perhaps marking your schedule as “busy” particularly where a shared calendar occurs.
Being disorganised, or working in a messy environment can affect your level of procrastination too. Have the resources/tools/items which will help you get organized and then you can get onto the task at hand.
Not having focus or direction can be a real challenge. Begin a task with the end in mind. What do you want to achieve? Why? How will that achievement make you feel? It may help to note the goal, and each of the action steps (in order of what is to be actioned) so that you can clearly see what needs to be done and when.
We’ve all experienced it. The task is too big and scary that we just avoid and delay. If that is the case, then break it down. Completing a business plan can be, for example, a pretty big task. But if you break it down into bite-sized manageable steps, then you attack one step at a time. Ensure you give yourself suitable time for each little step which is realistic. In fact, usually, a task will take 20% longer than we think, so give yourself that buffer. Remember to be kind to yourself.
Just hate having to do it?
There will always be tasks in your business (and in your life) that you just don’t like doing. If you can’t delegate it then you will have to put on your big boy/big girl pants and just do it. A concept I call “Eat the toad” (adapted from Brian Tracy’s ‘Eat the Frog’) is essentially where you eat the most disgusting thing on your plate first (ie the toad). Then you can enjoy the rest of your meal (or your day). Get that thing you hate doing done first, then the rest of your day will be a pleasure.
Time getting away from you?
Then it’s time to commit to your schedule or diary. Even better, play a game I call “Race the Clock”. You list all your tasks in the order you plan to do them. Allocate a specific timeslot to each task (giving only a small buffer between) and then you work to that list, for example:
7:00 to 7:20 – finish client homework emails
7:30 to 8:00 – reply to other emails
8:00 to 8:20 – invoicing
8:30 to 9:00 – debt collecting
9:15 to 9:30 – speak to prospect I promised to call
You should be constantly watching the clock and aiming to not fall behind. This does add a little pressure to your day, which works great for some people, but not everyone. Essentially you are setting yourself a deadline (or multiple ones). One thing I find really handy when I work with someone I know is a procrastinator is that I set them a deadline earlier than I actually need. That way, because they are likely to provide the item at the very last moment, then I have a buffer for fixing, correcting, checking or forwarding.
Habits are a great way to form positive patterns. For a start, if you struggle to start in the morning (and especially if you work from home) then set a routine as if you don’t work at home. Set your alarm to wake up. Eat breakfast at a certain time. Get dressed and even set an alarm 10 minutes before ‘start time’ when you’ll grab your coffee, open your laptop and officially start work. Absolutely no different from working in an office or premise where you essentially ‘clock in’. Set the same routines for tea breaks, lunch etc.
Make yourself accountable.
Either check in with a friend, or if you’re disciplined enough, hold yourself accountable. Rather than looking for (or making up) excuses, accept that it’s you and move forward with what you need to do.
What if you don’t do it?
Considering the consequences of not taking an action can sometimes be a great motivator. If I don’t make those debt collection calls, then I won’t get paid. If I don’t finish that report, then I can’t invoice for it promptly. If I don’t follow up on that lead, then I might miss an amazing opportunity.
Don’t stuff your schedule.
The more you give yourself to do, the greater the feeling of overwhelm and dread. As I said before, be kind to yourself, be honest about what you can reasonably get done (adding in those buffers and margins) and set realistic expectations of yourself. Also, be sure to take reasonable breaks and go for a short walk. It will clear your head and allow you to focus and move forward.
Work like there is no tomorrow!
You know the day before you are going on annual leave, you plough through the work and get everything done. Apply that same principle, as if there is no tomorrow, it must get done today. Sure, I realise (as do you) that that lovely reward of a holiday is not forthcoming, but the backlog of work and possible ramifications are not looming either.
Ask for Help.
We are all human and at some time I believe everyone has had their bouts of procrastination. A little is fine, but if you (or someone around you) has identified you’re a procrastinator, then it might be time to ask for help in overcoming it.
So if you’d like some help with procrastination (or any aspect of your business), give me a call (don’t procrastinate!) and have a chat with me about how I can help.
Reach out to us at Stone Business Coaching if you’d like a free copy of Donna’s full-length eBook on Procrastination, filled with lots of information and practical tips to better manage procrastination. Send email to firstname.lastname@example.org.