I have been intending to write this post for months and the lockdown has taken my own procrastination and putting the important things off to a whole new level. It’s proven an amazing opportunity to delay things.
I’m not doing this because I have more spare time. I have online courses to develop, networking to do, my own accounting and bookkeeping to get on top of, a zillion and one important work and admin tasks.
I am working on this post as a way of not doing all of those things, and also as a way of trying to encourage all of us who are putting things on hold for all the usual top-level excuses, money, time, lockdown, no customers, etc, to get ahead of the curve.
The future depends on what you do today. – Mahatma Gandhi
You beat the average and create more opportunities by doing something today. Procrastinating until tomorrow or beating yourself up about yesterday won’t lead to positive action.
Entrepreneurship, Your Business, Courage, Vision, and Procrastination
As Entrepreneurs, we know that the biggest battles we’ll wage are the ones in our heads. While I might talk a good game of courage from the sidelines, I know the uneasiness that can pervade one’s thoughts.
We don’t live in the security of the known. We forge our own path, battle risk, fight uncertainty, and prop ourselves up with a strong mental attitude and resilience to stay focused on our journey. However, with that trailblazing, we also know there are times when fear is normal.
Courage doesn’t mean we’re never afraid or concerned about what’s to come, it simply means we recognize those emotions and we forge ahead with confidence that we’ll be able to make it through and achieve our vision. It seems a pity to overcome fear and then get sideswiped by procrastination.
To believe in a vision, and not to live it for whatever reason, is very sad. Believing doesn’t mean much if you don’t back up your desires with action. In fact, for me, it creates stress because what I’m doing isn’t in alignment with who I really am (or want to become). It’s OK to be scared, but it’s not okay to be dishonest. Be true to yourself and your vision and start living it.
Without action, you aren’t going anywhere. – Mahatma Gandhi
Gandhi drives home the point that if you aren’t acting, then nothing is happening. Start today. Belief is great and totally necessary, but acting is critical, too!
In Fact, Procrastination Speeds Up the Treadmill
Many, if not most small businesses put off product development, content development, administration, and marketing because it seems like something they can wait to invest in, and there’s always some more important operational issue going on.
The truth is, the longer we ingrain all the usual repetitive excuses and wait to do the longer-term important things, the longer they will find themselves stuck in a continuing cycle of struggling to make ends meet.
Delaying and procrastinating on things, reiterating the same old stuff, is a way of making the treadmill run faster, not the other way around.
Procrastinators Look Like Effective Human Beings
I’m not a shrink but I think there is some universal truth in what follows.
Firefighting and “too much to do” usually triumphs over my long-term goals, which means I’m often busy but only a few of my actions create any real progress.
I’m always racing against the clock to address problems rather than create real change. Moving forward, I continue to be busy but not get anywhere – like a hamster running on the wheel.
Procrastinating does not mean I don’t get ahead and do absolutely nothing, it just means I make things harder and delay the potential for the best possible outcomes.
I seldom do absolutely nothing; I do marginally useful things, like gardening or DIY or making lists and vision boards and stuff I will do when I get around to it.
Why do I do these things? Because they are a way of not doing something more important. If all I had to do was garden, no force on earth could get me to do it.
It seems that I can be motivated to do difficult, timely, and important tasks if these tasks are a way of not doing something more important!
This is the essence of procrastination, an amazing strategy that converts procrastinators into effective human beings, respected and admired for all that they can accomplish and the good use they make of time.
Becoming Skilled at Procrastination
All of us put off things we must do. Skilled procrastination is the art of making this bad habit work for you. The key to being a great procrastinator is to list tasks one has in mind ordered by importance.
Make sure that tasks that seem most urgent and important are on top. Ensure there are also some worthwhile tasks to perform lower down on the list. Doing these tasks becomes a great way of not doing the things higher up on the list.
With this sort of appropriate task structure, you will become a useful citizen. Indeed, you can even acquire, as I have, a reputation for getting a lot done.
Now all you need to do is practice this habit for over 20 years and you are on track.
A Classic Mistake all Procrastinators Make
They try to minimize their commitments, free up time to do more, and reduce their list of things to do. The logic being if they have only a few things to do, they will quit procrastinating and get them done.
But this goes contrary to the basic nature of the procrastinator and destroys his most important source of motivation. The few tasks on his list will be the most important, and the only way to avoid doing them will be to do nothing. This is a way to become a couch potato, not an effective human being.
Using Deadlines to Get Stuff Done
Procrastination has a lot to do with impatience, lack of perspective, and having a short-term view of things.
This is a weird situation, because your business may be built on your dream and vision, but we don’t seem able to pursue those things properly because there is no obvious urgency attached to that vision.
Assuming you are not a passive procrastinator, paralysed by your indecision and failing to complete tasks on time, or indeed at all, then you are an Active procrastinator (like me) and put jobs off until the pressure of a deadline is upon you because you find it more fruitful to work under pressure.
Procrastination Will Bite You Every Time and Over Time
You compromise on the things that will really get you ahead – simple maths.
If there less important things (not unimportant) that keep winning each time, because you’re giving too much emphasis to them then obviously the important stuff will suffer. That means in the future, you will do very well in the former, but you will get nothing in the latter.
You impact on the other areas of your life
Imagine you neglect exercising and healthy eating because you’re busy with work. You see results since more time on work = more done. However, not exercising makes you unhealthy. You gain weight and you’re more prone to illnesses. If you’re not at the peak of your health, you can’t give your peak performance. That’s not the only consequence. If you gain weight, that might affect your self-image. You may feel less healthy, less attractive which lowers your self-confidence. You become self-conscious. This inadvertently spills over to your work performance.
The impact adds up over time
Some of us may think it’s not a big deal when we put an area of our life on hold. However, we don’t realize every time we postpone something, there is a negative impact — a dent. Small dent, but still a dent, nonetheless. Like my good friend Greg Magennis once said while we were students – it’s all the little things you don’t do in life that end up as a big thing. Neglect may seem to cause no impact initially, but the difference shows over time. It’s like when you draw a line. If you deviate by 5 degrees, it may seem like a small thing. But keep extending that line and the difference becomes huge after some time.
This can work for or against you. The difference of taking a little more action every day multiplies very quickly over the long haul, as you see from “Y” in the graph
Many of us are too stuck in daily routines to realize that we are veering off track from our goals.
Some Practical Steps to Banish Procrastination
It seems there is always a trade-off somehow. What should we do?
- Firstly, list the areas in life that are most important to you. For some people, this may be Family, Work, Health, Finances. Be clear on this and be honest with yourself, don’t follow trends of what is correct or “normal”.
- While you’re working on what’s pressing now, such as making money or making a mark in your career, don’t neglect the other things. There is no need to develop a tunnel vision and do only one thing at the expense of everything else.
- Constantly take a step back and set up a regular scheduled time each week, to look at your other life areas. Is there any area that seems to be falling behind? If so intervene and work on that before it gets worse.
- For the long term, build systems and processes to free up your time to get more done, not less. Create habits so that after a while, you become familiar with the steps required without burning energy – be patient habit creation takes time.
- You don’t need to create a 180-degree overhaul in your life, though if you want to that’s great. Just small actions to start off will create tremendous changes in the long run.