I have been meaning to write this article for a long time. I just could seem to find the time to get around to it. That may seem funny, but the truth is we all have procrastinated on business decisions and changes way too often. Procrastination is defined as “to defer action, delay, or put off for another day or time; to prolong or postpone for no apparent reason. Anyone who has teenagers has seen procrastination perfected when it comes to avoiding their homework. Unfortunately, procrastination is more than a mere annoyance to a small businessperson. It can be a major contributing factor in the demise of a small business. How often have we said to ourselves, “I know what I need to do? I just have to get around to doing it.” Author Brian Tracy wrote a book called “Eat that Frog.’ Essentially, his advice was to do that one thing that you do not want to do first thing everyday to keep from procrastinating. Essentially, eat that frog first thing. Then the rest of the day’s challenges will seem like cake.
Procrastination is often blamed on the fact that we are pressured for time. In a small business, we are almost afraid to turn our thoughts to the management and marketing of our business when the “busy work” can keep us busy. Why? Because we will think of all the things, we know we should be doing. If we already feel “pressed for time,” turning our thoughts to our business “to do” list will only increase the pressure.
So, what does procrastination truly cost us?
Procrastination is a serious problem in that it is a thief of our self-respect. It nags at us and spoils our fun. It can rob us of our enjoyment of recreational activities as we worry and fret about all the things that need to get done at the office. A second way that procrastination costs us is in missed opportunities. In the service business, timing is often everything. Many opportunities are missed because we are not properly prepared to take advantage of them. Remember the adage, “he who hesitates is lost. Procrastination robs us of our decision making power. Procrastination can lead us to make the same mistakes repeatedly, because we keep putting off implementation of the solution. Procrastination robs us of our poise. If we are always in a hurry, we never get to approach or complete a project exactly the way we want to. When we are smart enough to get good advice from a fellow professional, and we procrastinate about putting into action the information they give us, we are wasting their time and their wisdom.
What are some of the root causes of procrastination?
- Self-doubt – we are not sure of ourselves, so we spend too much time hesitating or second guessing.
- A low frustration tolerance – this often manifests itself in the fact that we feel we are owned something, and our real priority is being “comfortable.”
- Poor problem-solving skills – many people simply never develop the skills or develop a system to handle challenges, opportunities, or problems
- It is a form of rebellion – instead of solving the challenge or problem within the boundaries of the system, we blame the system.
- Traps – What do you spend a lot of time on that is not leading to anything productive?
- Lack of organization – this can manifest itself in the form of lack of physical structure; i.e., everything has its place and should be put away there; or in the form of a lack of organizational structure; i.e., lines of authority and responsibility and accountability are not made clear.
- Poor priority and goal setting – Running a business without setting your priorities and goals is kind of like setting sail on a journey across the ocean without any navigational maps.
- Lack of focus – many of us are more ADD or ADHD as adults than we were as children in the classroom. A focused mind is a productive mind. Of course, to be focused, we must have our priorities and goals firmly in place.
So how do we break the procrastination habit?
Be committed to making the change – find an accountability partner who holds us up to what we say we want to accomplish
Identify the areas you are procrastinating in – what are the frogs you need to eat first every day?
Set a definite goal – set up improvements in small increments. Marketing expert Joe Polish says, “everything measured improves. Everything measured and reported improves exponentially.”
Develop problem solving skills – emulate what people who do not struggle in an area you procrastinate in. Find someone you admire in an area you procrastinate in and make them your mentor.
Set up a system of rewards – make sure you celebrate even the smallest victories.
Understand priorities- the purpose of running a business is to produce profit. Examine everything you do during the day through the microscope of “is this activity adding to the bottom line?”
Develop a change in your attitude – you can do better. I can do better. As Charles Swindoll says about attitude – “I believe that life is 10% what happens to us, and 90% how we react to it.”
Finally, remember that effort does not always equal productivity. As a small business owner there are so many things that can suck up your time and attention. Just being busy, even overwhelmed, does not mean that what we are doing is productive. Examine every action. Examine our attitude. Set priorities. We can get better at this.