What is procrastination and how can you deal with it?
Procrastination is where you delay or postpone something…not necessarily because you don’t want to do it, but you just keep putting it off. It can show itself in a simple way – such as keep pressing the snooze button on your alarm to avoid getting up. But when it starts to interfere with your work, you need to take action.
It can occur for several reasons: poor time management, lack of organisation, low motivation, inability to concentrate, unrealistic expectations of yourself or your business, personal problems, negative beliefs about your capability, low self-confidence, perfectionism, or anxiety and fear related to failure and success.
Everyone who has a business will have experienced procrastination at some point, but it can become very debilitating if you lose control of it. So, what can you do? You need to know why you procrastinate before you can address it.
Reasons why you may be prone to procrastination
Your business may not be making progress as quickly as you’d like
When you first start your business, you are full of enthusiasm, it’s exciting and you are positive about where you’re going and how you’re going to get there. Your body releases dopamine when it experiences excitement…and that feeling is what fires you up and keeps you going in the beginning.
But after a while, as with any business, you will hit a few lows, and this can have the knock-on effect of making you feel things aren’t as good as they were. Negative thoughts can start to creep in…
• Are you going to get rewarded for all the hard work you’ve done?
• Is all this work worth it?
• Will you ever make it really successful?
And so, Mr. Procrastination knocks the door, and it’s very easy to open the door and let him in.
You just don’t know where to begin
Procrastination can also rear its ugly head when you start to feel overwhelmed by your business. You have seemingly endless to-do lists, your goals seem to be slipping away, and it all seems just too much of a mountain to climb.
You may notice that you start to only concentrate on the things you like doing, rather than the things that are urgent and important. By doing this you are in danger of not focussing on what will move your business forward…instead you stay smack bang in the middle of your comfort zone. But then your business starts to stagnate, and this is where procrastinating can be a danger to the future of, what was, an exciting prospect.
You’re scared you’ll make the wrong decisions
This is a very common reason. After all, we are only human, and we all live in fear of making a wrong choice. Some of you may feel that if you do make the wrong decision, you could ruin what you have already, so you either do nothing, or do things in a very haphazard way, which can be more damaging to your business…and to your mental health.
You may have heard the phrase, ‘you don’t fail, you learn.’ I know I have used this myself, and it’s true, but it’s better to try and avoid that feeling of failure as much as you can. It’s inevitable that you’ll make mistakes – everyone does, and some spectacularly (!), but it’s the fear of failing that is more debilitating that the actual failure!
It might be that you really worry what other people might think, and you care about other peoples’ opinions. It’s great to aim high, so long as you can remember that none of us is perfect.
You just hate a particular task
When you run your own small business, there are loads of tasks to get done. You only have yourself to rely on and this can lead to stress, especially if some of the tasks are dull or just plain boring.
Now, if you can afford it, you could outsource those irritating tasks to someone who does them for a living – get yourself an online assistant.
However, when you have a small business, especially if you’ve not been going for long, it’s unlikely you’ll have the money to invest in this kind of help straight away.
How can you overcome procrastination?
First, ask yourself some questions. Most of the time we know why we are letting Mr. P in. If you don’t know where you are with your business, you won’t be able to get to where you want to be.
• Are you setting yourself unrealistic goals?
• Are you putting unnecessary pressure on yourself?
• What are the consequences of NOT getting this done? (Whatever it is)
• What are the benefits of getting it done?
• What is getting in the way?
If you can answer these questions, you can start to plan what to do to stop the procrastination.
Here are a few tips
• First, forgive yourself. It’s happened and you need to let it go and move on.
• Secondly, look at your working environment. Is your desk a mess, with paper all over the place? Tidy up before you start, make sure you have a glass of water and that you’re comfortable.
• It might seem that everything is urgent or important, but the truth is, many things can be adjusted, or deadlines moved back. A good strategy to coping is something called The Eisenhower Matrix.
This is where you break down your tasks into Urgent/Important, Urgent/Less Important, Less Urgent/Important, and Less Urgent/Less Important. If you can categorise your tasks into these different areas, you can see where you need to focus your time and energy.
• One you have all your tasks categorised – take one of the tasks you hate and break it down into the steps you need to follow to complete it. Write it down.
Then break each step into a smaller task and give yourself a timeframe to complete it. Write it down! For example, you could set your alarm for immediately before lunch – when your alarm goes off, switch off all distractions and just do that first step. Then reward yourself with a nice lunch. Breaking a task down into more manageable chunks really helps you to concentrate and just get the job done. And you have a reward to look forward to.
• One of the most important things to remember to avoid procrastination is to remove distractions. For example, I work from a desktop. I know that if I leave Facebook on, I’ll see it flashing if I get a message. I can’t ignore it – I just can’t! I must open it – then I’m distracted and can easily lose an hour as I’ll start scrolling. The same applies to email or any other social media site. Switch off your distractions, so you can totally focus on the task in hand.
• For each task you decide to do, look at it and decide how long it’s going to take you. Give yourself a challenge, for example, I’m going to complete this task in 1 hour and 20 minutes. Then next time you must do this task, challenge yourself to knock off 10 minutes from that time. You’ll feel more of a sense of achievement if you deliver ‘on time’ – even if it’s your own set time!
• Think about what time of the day you are more effective. I know that I work better, harder, and more quickly in the morning. As soon as I stop and have lunch, I seem to relax and can find it hard to concentrate. So, I do the things that are the hardest, or that I hate doing most in the morning. I know I’m more likely to get it done before lunch than I am afterwards.
Procrastination can be a tough cookie to crumble, so be prepared. You will have the odd relapse, but it’s about learning to recognise the signs that procrastination is near. If you can learn to manage your procrastination, you will be able to reduce your stress, build your confidence and build your business.
If you need help to get your business organised, or don’t know where to start to sort out your priorities, drop me an email or message.
firstname.lastname@example.org or click here to send a message.
Great exploration on an important topic! I myself have realised that I procrastinate for many different reason, depending on the task. If it’s washing the dishes, it’s because I’m lazy. And if it’s writing, it’s because I’m afraid. So I’ve found that I need to tackle procrastination differently each time too. Anyway, thanks for this post!
Hi Stuart, and thank you for your comment. We all procrastinate from time to time, and you’re right in that it can be for different reasons and you need to tackle it according to the reason. I’m so pleased you found this article useful.
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