I have been meaning to write on this topic for a while now, but kept putting it off.
Yes, we all procrastinate and the question is how to stop doing it and take action.
Get business news first
Sign up to SmartCompany’s daily newsletter
The saying that procrastination is the thief of time is an old one, but along with hours, procrastination also robs you of energy, creates inertia and, in the words of poet Don Marquis, is the art of “keeping up with yesterday”.
Psychologists explain it as a “a temporal gap between intended behaviour and enacted behaviour”, which is all very interesting but unlikely to make me clean out my email folder in preference to following interesting links, or getting the newsletter finished rather than just researching it or making yet another cup of coffee.
Here are five ways to nip procrastination in the bud and get on with what matters.
1. Notice it
You may have a complex and highly reasoned story about why you are putting something off, but train yourself to observe what is really going on and name it. I am procrastinating. Then, rather than beating yourself up over it, the next question to ask is “How is this taking care of me?“ You may be shielding yourself from fear of failure or having an offer rejected or being called to account or just not meeting your own expectations in some way. Seeing this more clearly can help to move on to doing something about it.
2. What is it costing you?
Do a time audit and work out, based on perhaps a daily rate, what you are costing your business through your inaction. Want to get paid? Get busy!
3. Set yourself less tasks not more
Sometimes the sheer number of things to be done overwhelms us and we do nothing. It may sound counter intuitive to set less tasks but even getting three things completed in a day can be an enormously satisfying feeling, and if you get them done early you can add a few more. Setting yourself 10 and doing none or a couple is much worse overall.
4. Action accountant
I have mentioned using an Action Accountant before – this is someone you ask to help keep you accountable. They can be a mentor, coach, colleague or friend – anyone you feel comfortable asking to check in with you. This can work both ways for people who are solopreneurs, as chances are the person you approach might also value some support.
5. Freddo Frogs
If intrinsic motivation is not doing it for you, find a reward that you can give yourself at the end of a day or week of meeting your goals and finishing your to-do lists. This can be anything from a Freddo Frog (my personal favourite) to a walk or a new hat. You know what you like!
Right. So now it’s time to stop reading this and get on with it. Today. Remember, as Amelia Earhart famously said, “The more one does the more one can do”.