Entrepreneurship and procrastination: not an ideal combination. Defined as, ‘the avoidance of doing a task that needs to be accomplished’, procrastination is an enemy we all battle with on a regular basis.’It is the practice of doing more pleasurable things in place of less pleasurable ones, or carrying out less urgent tasks instead of more urgent ones, thus putting off impending tasks to a later time.’ (source). Much as quickly checking social media or making your fourth coffee of the day are
Entrepreneurship and procrastination: not an ideal combination. Defined as, ‘the avoidance of doing a task that needs to be accomplished’, procrastination is an enemy we all battle with on a regular basis.
‘It is the practice of doing more pleasurable things in place of less pleasurable ones, or carrying out less urgent tasks instead of more urgent ones, thus putting off impending tasks to a later time.’
Much as quickly checking social media or making your fourth coffee of the day are pleasurable tasks, when your flourishing new business needs all your time and attention, it can lead to your business taking second-place. In fact, a 2015 study by YouGov discovered that as a nation our procrastination habit costs businesses £76 billion or 55 days per year (source
). So why do we do it? And what can we do to overcome the procrastination trap?
Why do today what we can put off till tomorrow?
Here are some examples of how I procrastinated whilst writing this article (I like to think of it as, ‘being a real-life case study’): put on three loads of laundry; tidied my desk; watched TV; phoned my parents; made a sandwich; went for a long walk, and of course checked social media compulsively. When looking for distractions, it’s amazing how much importance we suddenly assign to these less urgent tasks. And the excuses? Oh, the excuses. An important business task can easily be talked down to appear of less significance (‘The deadline’s not for another two days, I’ve got time’). We feel tired from all the decisions we’ve made already today. We want to avoid the inevitable (‘I’m scared of how much tax I owe so I’ll leave my return until the last minute’). Perhaps we have even convinced ourselves we work best when we’re right up against it – nothing like a deadline, right? Maybe that 15 minutes in a Facebook group is beneficial for business – it is networking after all! However, considering 60% of people lose their train of thought looking at social media and can’t remember what they were doing before (source
), it’s not only those 15 minutes you’re losing.
The problem is, as an entrepreneur, you have no one to rely on but yourself. If you leave the task till the last minute, you’re the one quite possibly producing under-par work for your clients and not showing your true capability. And we all know the worst kind of feeling is disappointment in yourself…
Short of finding hidden reserves of willpower, there are a few ways you can trick yourself into getting those important tasks done sooner rather than later:
Plan your ‘time out’. Done the right way, planned procrastination can actually help your brain function better. We all know staring at our screens for hours can make that creative solution you’re desperate for stay hidden…but a short walk round the park, for example, will take away from the overwhelming panic and has a good chance of naturally dreaming up the solution for you.Have a readily-available list of small but useful things you can do when you’re not in the mood for serious concentration: book travel tickets, buy online gifts, make your grocery order, etc.Whatever task it is you’re putting off, think about why it’s so important e.g. if I do my monthly expenses now, it’ll mean my tax return won’t be a nightmare when it has to be done. If there is a bigger ‘why’ (‘running my own business gives me more time to spend with my family’) – write your why onto a post-it in front of your desk/as your desktop background/anywhere you can easily see it when you start aimlessly looking around for something to do. It will remind you of the bigger part each drawn-out task plays in the life you’re trying to build.
Try the Pomodoro
technique – 25 minutes work followed by a 5 minute break. Every four blocks, take a longer break. If you start a task knowing you’ll only be working on it for a short period of time before you can take a break, your brain won’t be so tired and you’ll get more accomplished. Another way to look at time is…
…tell yourself you’ll only do the task for 2 minutes and then stop. It’s more than likely that even in those few minutes you’ll settle into it and will want to carry on. If not, hey – you’ve done two more minutes work than you had before!Our favourite method to just get on with work is switching your phone onto Do Not Disturb mode and/or switching off your WiFi. Even better, put it in a different room. That unconscious habit of picking it up and checking every minute will disappear surprisingly fast.
Do you have any tips for dealing with procrastination?
If your procrastination levels have hit an all-time high and you want to explore the reasons behind it – why not book onto a free coaching call
with Laura to see if No More Ifs or Buts can help?
No more ifs or buts.