Do It! Or Ditch It – Successful Ways To Beat Procrastination
“I love deadlines. I like the whooshing sound they make as they fly by.” Douglas Adams (author of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy)
Whether you are a start-up entrepreneur or an established business owner, you probably wish you had more time to get things done. Most of us learned to tell the time quite young, but spend a lifetime trying to manage the 24 hours we have in each day.
Ultimately, the story of your life will depend on how you use the time you have been given. Your success in business depends on how you manage your own and other people's time. It is our most precious business resource.
Time management is of course self management. It is a combination of planning, realism and self-awareness. But to control time we need to understand our relationship with it. For many people, the hardest part of a task is deciding when and how to get started; or which goal is the most important and what the direction of the action is going to be. If you consistently delay giving due attention to something that ought to be a priority for you or your business, you are procrastinating.
Procrastination is a time stealer and the enemy of all decision-making. You can hear it in what people say and see it in what they choose to do or not do.
Their language reflects their true intentions. They say, ‘I should’ ‘might’ ‘could’ ‘when’ ‘if only’ ‘I’ll try’. This may seem harmless enough, but over time these phrases betray a lack of self-belief or commitment. If you recognize yourself in these words, there is value in choosing to say, 'I am’ ‘I can’ ‘I will’ instead. These are action words that will encourage your brain to commit to the task in hand and make decisions that will take you forwards.
A decision to ‘do something’ as your first option will always lead to action. A decision to ‘think about it’ will always lead you towards a delay.
If you ask yourself, 'What is stopping me getting started?' your reply will probably be one or more of the following:
- ‘I don’t know what I am trying to achieve.’
- 'I feel bored at the thought of doing it.'
- 'It's not something I like doing.'
- 'I feel overwhelmed by the scale of the work involved.'
- 'I don't have the skills or knowledge to achieve it.'
- 'I have a self-limiting belief about my ability to achieve it.'
- 'It conflicts with my values.'
A question invites you to make excuses, or tell a story. So, instead of asking yourself a question, make a positive statement instead
'I would do it now if …'
- ‘I knew where I was headed.’
- 'I had someone to advise me.'
- 'I better understood the process involved.'
- 'I had more financial information.'
- 'I had the necessary skills and experience.'
- 'I had confidence in my belief.'
- 'It matched my values.'
Every choice you make – from actions and reactions to promises and excuses – provides clues to where your motivation and priorities lie.
In some cases the reason for procrastination is a lack of hunger for the task. There is little point in building your working life around something you should be doing, if every time you are faced with a time choice you avoid it by diverting your attention towards doing something else.
Do it! – Ask yourself, “Are there tasks that I can outsource or delegate to become more effective?”
Investing money or resources in outsourcing tasks, or in training or mentoring can be an excellent way to free yourself up to focus on the elements of your business that need your unique skills and vision.
Do it! – Ask yourself, “Am I being effective, or am I busy being busy?”
How can you spend your time most effectively? What is making you money? Where are you is losing money? Take 10 minutes to plan your day first thing in the morning and make sure you are not just busy being busy.
Do it! – Ask yourself, “If I stay on your current path, where will I end up?”
Is your business heading in the direction you want it to? What activities contribute to the growth of your business? If you are stuck in your comfort zone, sooner or later there will be a cost involved. Is now the time to grasp the nettle and to plan for change?
Do it! – Ask yourself, “What am I tolerating or putting up with?”
Most people are 'putting up with' something or someone that they feel would be too time-consuming to sort out. Whatever it is, there will come a point where there will be a cost involved in putting off the moment of decision.
Do it! – Ask yourself, “If I could improve one business relationship who would it be with, and why?”
There is a truism in business that 80% of your profits come from 20% of your contacts. Do you know who your most valuable business contacts are? Do you need to make time to build or strengthen some business bridges?
Do it! – Ask yourself, “What will I regret in my later years?”
Few of us give ourselves enough time to reflect on the whole life picture. A common coaching exercise invites people to write their own obituary: highlighting past and future achievements. This is 'starting with the end in mind' in a very real sense and can wake people up to the time they have to achieve their true goals.
Do it! – Ask yourself, “What has lack of confidence or self belief stopped me achieving?”
Most people have fears or self limiting beliefs of some sort. We all have to learn by trying and by making mistakes. Developing your skills in, for example, public speaking, market research, social media, financial planning, people management, can transform your ability to reach your goals. Investing time in you will develop your range of skills and turbo-charge your drive and your business. Take the plunge and face your fears – you may find yourself propelled forwards to new levels of confidence and aspiration.
Do it! – Ask yourself, “What the one step could I take today that would take me closer to my goal?”
The cure for procrastinating is taking focused action. Studies show that those individuals who set achievable goals are more likely to take action and to achieve better overall results that those who do not. When your purpose is clear, and your goals are time-bound, your passion and focus will drive you forwards – and procrastination becomes a thing of the past.
Now ask yourself:
- What do I want to achieve today (this week, this year, in the long term)?
- What is my primary goal?
- If I do the task in hand, what difference would it make?
- Will it take me closer to or further away from my primary goal?
- What is the one thing that I could do NOW that would take me closer to achieving my goal?
Decide what you want.
Make sure it is Realistic.
Stop making Excuses.
Monitor your progress.
Bev James is CEO of The Academy Group including the Entrepreneurs' Business Academy and EBA for Coaches, joint ventures with James Caan; and The Coaching Academy – the world largest training school for coaches. She is a millionaires' mentor, a serial entrepreneur and author of DO IT! or DITCH IT: Turn Ideas into Action and Make Decisions That Count – 8 Steps to Business Success.
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