“Procrastination is the art of keeping up with yesterday and avoiding today.”
One of the biggest issues faced by many of my clients is that of procrastination. They want to move forward, they may even know what steps they need to take, but they put it off. What keeps a person from starting?
The saboteur is alive and well
Inside all of us we have what I call, the saboteur. The saboteur is the voice of our fears. We can’t even see how manipulative the saboteur is and we end up self-sabotaging our efforts. This is often how it plays out.
The big picture paralyzes you
You may not know where to start and fill your time with “busy” work. Many of us got lost in the minutiae, spending too much time on the little “easy” things and avoid the big ticket items.
You feel overwhelmed
It seems like there are too many steps. People often feel overwhelmed and discouraged, losing focus easily and often. Catch yourself saying, “I’ll do it later, tomorrow, next month”.
You are a perfectionist
Putting off the tasks until all the pieces are perfectly put together, until it’s the perfect time…. When will it ever be all perfect?
You have to do it alone
No one else knows your business like you do. This translates for some business owners into believing they have to build everything from scratch. Who can be a master of it all?
You replace action with talking
Talk, talk, talk. You talk your dreams to death….literally, as in, you’re all talk and no action.
You have an inability to prioritize
This is a classic: Filling time with non-essentials. For example, spending hours looking for the right font, without leaving enough time for the report.
You fear mistakes and successes
When you have experienced a highly successful project you may believe that from then on all projects are held to a higher standard. You will do anything, including nothing, to avoid getting out of your comfort zone. On the opposite side, maybe you dropped the ball because you feared failure and did not want to become “that guy” who did “xxx” (e.g. lost money for the company).
You lie to yourself
You lie to justify failures (“I wasn’t given enough time”) or success (“Kathy did most of the work”). You lie to justify your justifications.
You choose your goals poorly
You might find yourself on the wrong path when everything you must do to achieve your goal is a struggle or a sacrifice. Goals have to be worthwhile, be consistent with your values and they have to excite you.
Time management is the answer
The bottom line is you have to restructure your work habits, be relentless with avoiding distractions and add motivation into the mix. A few proven tools to try out:
Make your to-do list
- Make goals for the day, week, month and attach completion dates (a tip: estimate how long each task will take and then double it)
- Be careful to not get caught in the list-making trap – remember that you have to complete the items on the list in order to move forward
Break it down
- Take each individual item on your list and break it down into a series of smaller steps
- Here’s the catch – do the hard stuff first!
- Ask for help – you don’t need to go it alone. There are lots of experts out there to help you
- Get an ally to support you and help you be accountable
Hit the mute button
- Ask yourself: Am I creating a measurable change toward the goal I want?
- If you have been talking for weeks and months about a great idea it is time to get going (providing it is really what you want)
Practice Wearing Blinders
- Assign a period of time to turn off all distractions, including music, TV, social media, and other things. Business owners regularly fall in the trap in checking their email obsessively. Try not to!
Pay attention and fight the urge to give in. Force yourself to work on it for at least a few minutes.
Reward your efforts with something fun. This can be a night out, an elaborate dinner, watching your favourite TV show, etc.
Some of these pointers are challenging to implement, yet they are effective. This problem isn’t going away on its own – you must take the initiative! Change doesn’t happen unless… you change. The benefits of tackling this problem are that you will become more disciplined, more driven, and more focused.
Image credit: By Sander van der Wel, Wikimedia.