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Procrastination is something we all struggle with at some point, and for many business owners, working alone or at the head of their team and not being accountable to anyone other than themselves, it’s a really common challenge. The good news is, if you are aware that you’re currently procrastinating more than you’d like, there are some simple things you can do to help reduce and even eliminate it, so you can push forward with achieving your goals.
Break all of your to-do lists down into Clear, Specific, Single Action Steps.
One of the most common reasons I find that clients procrastinate is simply because of a lack of clarity. They fill their to-do lists with projects, rather than single, specific actions. For example, they might look at their list for the day and see “create new website”, which is in fact a massive project. Looking at a project can often feel daunting and overwhelming because there’s no clearly identified first step, and because we don’t know where to start we tend to shy away from it and put it off in the hope that we’ll feel clearer about it later on! One of the easiest ways to overcome this, is to make sure that your daily to-do lists, contain ONLY single, specific action steps, with the above example it might be something like “design the layout of the new homepage”, suddenly that doesn’t seem so daunting, it’s clear and specific and feels achievable, so you’re much more likely to just get straight on with it. Even if you still intend to complete the whole project in a single day, by taking the time upfront to break it down into singular action steps you make it much more likely you’ll achieve that.
Get up and Get On.
Procrastination can also often come from over-thinking, so when we allow ourselves to put off those big or important tasks until later in the day we’re giving ourselves more time to think about them, allowing fear, doubt and excuses to creep in. It’s for this reason that I advise clients to plan their day the night before, and to always tackle their most important tasks first thing in the morning. Brian Tracey’s written a great book all around this topic called “Eat That Frog” which if you haven’t read I’d recommend. By tackling those difficult tasks first thing you don’t give yourself time to get in your own way and start over-thinking. The other advantage to tackling these tasks early in the day, is that you’ll feel great as soon as they’re done, starting your day off with a massive buzz of relief, and if your day does get derailed by something unexpected, you can relax knowing you’ve already done the things that were most crucial to the business.
Work in short, sharp bursts
Sometimes our never-ending to-do lists can in themselves be the cause of procrastination. As a business owner there’s always something more you could be doing, and sometimes this can feel really overwhelming, reducing us to a state of slightly panicked inertia! If we’re feeling tired and stressed, the thought of a whole long day stretching ahead of us can feel like a lot of energy to summon (especially if it’s only Monday!), so instead I encourage clients to break their day down into 90 minute blocks. Rather than asking yourself to concentrate for a whole 8hr day, instead just focus on getting as much done as you can in the next 90 minutes (or 60 minutes even), and then stop for a well-earned tea break and rest, before coming back for another short, sharp burst. By looking just at the next “step”, just at the next 90 minutes, you’ll hopefully feel less daunted and more motivated knowing you’ll have a well-earned break at the end.
For many of us, we may have the best of intentions to march through our to-do list, but we’re constantly interrupted which makes it much, much harder to get into flow. It’s important to take control of your time, and to guard it, so that you can get on with the tasks that are most important for you, so where I talked above about working in short, focused bursts of time, it’s also important to guard these blocks from interruptions – switch your phone to silent, turn off your email alerts, and if needs be even take yourself off to a different location. If I have a difficult task I know I’m likely to procrastinate on, I’ll often take myself off to a nice coffee shop or the library to help eliminate distractions and the chances of being interrupted.
Question WHY you’re procrastinating.
If you find you are consistently procrastinating over something, it’s important to try and understand WHY you’re putting it off, as it may be something you can solve by addressing this root cause, rather than trying to just “push through” which clearly isn’t working. Maybe you’re feeling unclear about how to do something, and before you can complete the task you actually first need to go and get more information. Maybe you’re feeling exhausted, and actually as much as you’d like to get the task done, taking a break for a 30min cat-nap or a refreshing walk will help you come back feeling refreshed and with the energy to tackle it head-on. Maybe you’ve just got too much on your list, and you’re not so much procrastinating as actually prioritising and you need to delegate the task to someone else (or outsource it). Sometimes, by understanding why we’re really putting something off we can simply resolve the problem.
Remind yourself WHY you’re doing this
It can be easy as a business owner to sometimes lose sight of WHY we’re really doing something. Often if we’re working long hours and not earning as much as we’d like, we can start to feel unrewarded for our hard work, and our motivation can start to drop which is often when procrastination kicks in. It’s important at times like this to revisit your big picture of WHY you run your business, and what you want out of it, and tap into that motivation. This is why it’s so important to get clear on your WHY, to keep you moving forward when times get tough, and creating something like a vision board to have up in your office can serve as a great daily reminder of WHY you want to keep pushing forward and not waste time procrastinating. The more you put off those important tasks, the further away those goals and that ideal lifestyle keep getting.
Perhaps you can even schedule a little something now, as a reward, to tap back into that motivation right now. If for example one of your big goals is a shiny new car, reward yourself when you’ve completed those difficult tasks by booking a test drive in your dream car, or give yourself an afternoon off to get a massage, or buy yourself a bottle of champagne. We often forget as business owners to acknowledge and celebrate all of our hard work and success, and as we’re the boss no-one else is unfortunately going to do it for us! It’s really crucial to celebrate every now and then, and reward yourself, to keep your motivation high and remind yourself why you’re doing this.
Create some accountability
One final key suggestion is to try to create some accountability to someone outside of yourself. Often when we’re only accountable to ourselves, as most business owners are, it’s really easy to let yourself off the hook if you just don’t feel like doing something. Accountability can be fundamental to helping you achieve your goals quicker, it’s a HUGE part of the value of a coach, and is not to be under-estimated. Motivation comes in two forms, you’re either motivated TOWARDS something you want (carrot) or you’re motivated AWAY from something you don’t want (stick), and ideally you want to create an environment for yourself which has both. So whilst the previous point takes care of the carrots, it’s important to also put some sticks in place, and this is where accountability comes into play. We’ll often work much harder to not let someone else down, than we will for ourselves, so involving someone else in your journey – whether that’s a “business buddy”, a coach, a mentor or a partner, will often spur you forward towards those goals much faster.
P.S. If you’d like to some help to grow your business quicker and achieve your ideal lifestyle, simply book in for a call with me here.