Warning: Procrastination could kill your business success

Do you understand how damaging procrastination in business can be? It could be killing your business success right now, You are probably reading this now so you can avoid doing something else which is important but not particularly enjoyable. Don’t get me wrong – I don’t want you to stop reading but I would love to help you to understand what is really holding you back in starting or growing your own small business.

You know that feeling, just one more check of Facebook or Instagram, or maybe another level of Candy Crush Saga and then you can get on with preparing your online marketing strategy. In fact checking out social media could be considered market research couldn’t it? Except that you know it isn’t and you also know that later you will kick yourself for letting another day go by without writing that strategy.

Procrastination in business is very common because of the enormity of the number of tasks that are now your responsibility and it can be totally overwhelming. It can be hard to prioritise and so you develop a habit of putting off some of the tasks because you have too much to do but your choices can be a sign of procrastination.

You may even be procrastinating about getting started on developing a small business. You’re waiting for a better time, waiting until you are less busy or waiting to perfect your idea before you get started. Of course, deep down you know that the time will never be better but stepping up and taking action now just seems too hard.

But what is the cost to you if you allow your procrastination habit to continue unabated? It could well cost you the chance of having a successful business.

This is because the tasks you may be avoiding are likely to be the ones that make the difference between being an average business or an outstanding one or worse, being an unprofitable business rather than a profitable one.

And even if your procrastination in business is not that extreme and the tasks you are avoiding are smaller ones it is still dangerous because you are slowing down the momentum of the business and that is critical. Because, when a business is not moving forward in comparison to it’s competitors then it is actually not standing still but in reality moving backward. Now that’s a frightening thought isn’t it?

You are also likely to overlook changing trends and ideas, as well as holding back on developing new products or services. These are vital areas for all small businesses to work on because our changing world means you always need to be looking ahead and planning for change. If you lose sight of new trends and ideas you will quickly become outdated and overlooked.

So this procrastination in business habit is clearly one that you need to knock on the head as soon as possible. So don’t put it off any longer – read on and discover the techniques you can use to change this habit for ever from the comfort of your own desk.

Get rid of your procrastination habit once and for all

Why do we waste time when we know that we have a huge list of tasks that should be completed as soon as possible?

It is because of that “should” word.

As soon as we create an action plan for our business week (whether we do it in a list or just carry it around in our head), our brain insists on us including items which we don’t like doing or we are convinced we are not very good at. This includes all and any tasks you think are awful, like ringing customers and asking for payment, writing “exciting” content about your business to post online or doing the accounts. You will have your own list of tasks that, given half a chance, you will put off as long as possible.

We know we should do it this week, in fact we should have done it last week and really we need to do it today but as soon as a “should” item is added to the list our “won’t” generator gets started up.

The “won’t” generator.

We all have a “won’t” generator which developed when we were about 2 years old. Up until then we were pretty amenable so long as we had a full tummy, dry bum and a comfortable bed. But at 2 we discovered that we didn’t have to do everything we were told to because we learnt to say no and to have tantrums.

This “won’t” generator was usually controlled throughout our early lives by our parents and teachers but it stayed available and some used it more often than others – you were the rebels in the class or at home.

Now you are working in and on your own business you would think that you would turn that generator off during our business hours so you could achieve more and be more successful wouldn’t you? But the problem is that we have trained our brains over the years to respond to “should” with “won’t” whenever we like and it takes time to teach ourselves new patterns.

If only our business tasks could all be yes, yes, yippee items then we know we wouldn’t have this struggle to complete them all but because they are not we find ourselves procrastinating in our business.

You have a choice at this point.

You can either continue to fight the “won’t” generator and hope you will succeed or you can stop putting “should” jobs onto your list.

Was that a collective sigh of relief I just heard? Sorry, but you still will do these jobs – they just won’t be “should” jobs anymore.

I am sure you are wondering how this is going to work?

To succeed in making a change you need to change your habits and your thinking in a series of simple steps which hopefully won’t become steps you should do but instead are steps that it would seem crazy not to do. By focusing on one small step or idea at a time you can gradually make a change to your thinking which will allow you to view your business tasks in a different light and stop your business procrastination.

So, what is the first step?

Spend the next 5 days making a note of what you are avoiding doing whenever you find yourself procrastinating. It may be the same job several times during the day or it may be a number of different jobs. If I use cleaning my house as an example then I know that getting to dusting on the list is very likely to lead to procrastination but vacuuming is not a problem.

Don’t try to change anything yet but just make a note of what your brain thinks of as “should” jobs. Check yourself every time you find yourself doing a task that isn’t the most important one on your list or when you find yourself doing something which isn’t a business task at all. It may be taking too many coffee breaks, it may be ringing friends for a chat during business hours or it could be going online to check out websites that have little to do with your business.

Before you can change anything you need to know exactly where you are at now. You need to be aware of what leads to your procrastination in business and then you can consider the feelings that you have about these tasks and why you have them.

Once you know exactly what turns on your “won’t” generator then you can move onto the next step.

The “won’t” catalyst

You now need to work out why these tasks are a catalyst.

They may be tasks that you are concerned are too hard and may cause you to fail. This can be particularly important if they involve a skill such as selling where it takes time to feel confident but you might be under pressure to be successful straight away.

They may be tasks that you need to learn more about to become more competent at completing them. For many small business owners doing the accounts can fit into this category. And it often feels easier to leave it and hope that somehow it will become clearer in time.

It could also be that they are new to you and are taking you out of your comfort zone. An example of this is debt collection, which may seem terrifying if you have never needed to do it before and don’t know what words to use.  

Or, are they just like dusting for me – no skill required and no enjoyment to be gained so no incentive for getting it done – except that it might be a task that is essential to the business’ profitability and procrastination might be killing your business success?

It may take some time to really understand why you are holding back and it may also be a bit uncomfortable – that’s to be expected when you are dealing with some of these reasons. Recognising when fear is holding you back, rather than laziness or boredom, is a huge step in overcoming procrastination in business.

Laziness and boredom will have to be dealt with by changing your habits but to overcome fear you need to recognise it and find other strategies to be able to replace it with self-confidence. Rather like Susan Jeffers says in her book “Feel the fear and do it anyway.”

This may sound like a hard step to take but the positive aspect of it is that once you know what is triggering your procrastination then taking the next step to change your habits and mind-sets will be much easier and much more successful.

This is where you make the decision to break the procrastination habit.

You need to decide how you are going to structure your time and your thinking to stop these trigger tasks becoming “should” tasks and therefore allowing the “won’t” generator to get started up.

There are lots of techniques to change habits and ways of thinking to stop procrastination in business and you need to choose those that work best for you.

One technique is to take action on the most important task on your list as soon as possible so you don’t have time to consider failure. Rather than thinking too much about the task, just take action and get it out of the way.

For most people, the completion of an important task releases endorphins into the brain which gives you a great feeling so the rest of the day will be happier and more successful. Most successful business people have a specific time of the day (often early morning but it doesn’t have to be) when they know they can achieve the most results for their time. They use this time on the most important part or parts of their business so they are set up for a powerful day.

Using this technique also frees up your mind to get stuck into other important tasks later. Completing the big job for the day means you can stop thinking about it, worrying about it and finding excuses not to do it. It will be gone from your thinking once it is completed and suddenly you are free to concentrate on everything else you need to complete in the day.

This may not sound like a big deal but I can assure you that it if try it you will find the extra energy you have from avoiding all the negative thinking will be surprising.

Another technique is to ask someone for help.

Forget the idea that you have to do everything yourself in your small business. Take the example of writing exciting content about your business to post online. You could ask your existing customers for their stories about how they use your products or services or you could focus on your story – why you started the business (or want to start the business) and what your vision is. You might start with a few paragraphs and ask a friend to read it and give you honest feedback. You could also check out business writing courses online. It takes time to learn how to write great content but even if your content is just good it will be a lot better than no content at all. Starting with just a few paragraphs at a time and asking for help is an amazing way to overcome any blocks you might otherwise have.

The same technique of asking for help goes for all the other tasks you are avoiding because you just don’t think you are very good at them. You will find you are surrounded by expertise if you just ask someone to explain something to you. Not only will you be in a better position but the person or people you ask to help you will be happy that they were able to assist. Human beings love being needed and love to help others – they just don’t always recognise when that help is needed until they are asked.

When it comes to changing your thinking you sometimes have to be a bit sneaky and trick your brain into action. These next ideas are magic ways to “fake it ‘til you make it”.

Promise yourself a reward. It can be anything you like although it should match the amount of effort that is required to complete the task. Writing one sentence and being rewarded with 30 minutes on social media is never going to work. Rewards can be anything at all that you feel will get you on the right track. Just make sure they don’t take too much time out of your business day or that could be procrastination again.

Use accountability to get them out of the way. Tell someone (no, not the cat) what you are doing and when it will be done by and get them to check with you to make sure it is happening. If it’s a task that needs to be done regularly then let them know this so they can keep checking regularly. Make sure they understand that you don’t need nagging just checking on so you can stay focused.

Set up some starting work rituals. Just as we have rituals like our morning coffee and the way we get dressed to shift our thinking from sleep to work many people find that starting work rituals help them to get started without delays. These rituals can be anything you like but they must be things you do before work every day. You might listen to a particular song that gives you energy and then do some deep breathing. Some people like to have a ritual of placing things on their desk in a particular way as signal that they are now getting started on work. You decide what works best for you and make it a simple routine that you do every day so your brain gets into the habit of working with you not against you when it comes to get started.

Focus on starting. Rather than focusing on completing a whole task – especially if it is quite a big one just concentrate on making a start. This really helps prevent procrastination in business because often when you get started you may realise that the task isn’t as difficult or isn’t going to take as long as you first thought and you will find that you are completing it easily. But sometimes you were right and it is hard or time consuming – at least now you have completed part of it and tomorrow and the day after you can just get started again until you have cracked it.

Rephrase the way your brain thinks about the task. Instead of thinking in negative terms about how much you don’t want to do it focus instead on why you are doing it and what the outcome will be. Learning to focus on those future pleasures that will be the result of completing tasks is a great way to change your thinking and hopefully your bottom line. Instead of thinking “I should” think instead “I choose to” or “I will”. Giving our brain a choice will ensure that the “won’t” generator is less likely to be turned on.

Remove all distractions. Turn your phone off or at least move it out of the room so you won’t be tempted when you hear those notifications. And close down the social media pages on your computer so it won’t be as easy to just check in. If you need time without others interrupting then let them know this or if you are lucky enough to have your own space just close the door.

Set up a timetable. Be realistic about how much work you can do and when the best time to do it is then make a schedule and stick it up somewhere prominent where you are more likely to see it and follow it. At the end of the working day review the timetable and adjust it where necessary. If you work from home make sure you have a start time and finish time for your working day (whatever suits you best) and try to stick to it as much as possible.

The time to start is now

All of these ideas will work in helping you to overcome the curse of procrastination in business but it’s up to you to get started in putting them into action. Often the best way to get motivated is to review your personal and business goals and focus on what the wonderful outcomes will be once you have developed and grown your successful business. Then break the goals down into realistic action steps and get started now.

Well, what are you waiting for? My work is done here.

©Robyn Forryan

The Biz Coach NZ

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