Is there anything more tempting than procrastination? Or deciding to do the quick, easy-to-do tasks in order to avoid the larger, more urgent project that needs to get done? Or creating long lists and Excel sheets to plan out your big project, and then failing to actually execute your elaborate plan? Or reading this article instead of doing your work?
If any (or all) of these suggestions made you self-consciously blush, we’ve got news for you: you’re procrastinating, and as an entrepreneur or a founder, you really don’t have time to indulge in such a luxury. No offense.
There are a lot of reasons people procrastinate, especially if you’re working on your own business. Maybe you’ve never been your own boss before, and there’s no one stay on top of you. Or you’re a perfectionist, and have standards and processes that hold you back from taking action. The project is boring, and it’s a big undertaking and you don’t know where to start, or you started but the progress is painfully slow.
And of course, there’s everyone’s favorite: you’re afraid of failure. That’s a fun one.
Procrastination isn’t always a bad move. Sometimes waiting until that last-minute-panic-mode can really get your creative mojo flowing, and sometimes that office supplies drawer really did need a makeover! Now you can easily find a paperclip whenever your heart desires one. Bravo. But most of the time, you’re limiting yourself to low or medium-quality work when you know you can do better, and hurting your business, when you know it deserves better.
Make Lists Your Friend, Not Your Enemy
Don’t make a big, over-ambitious list and expect yourself to check everything all off in one day. This is counterproductive and overwhelming – you’re giving yourself decision paralysis by not identifying clear priorities, and setting yourself up to fail. Instead, set some realistic goals. On Monday, make a list of priorities for the week. Then, make a second list for each day of the week, and clearly identify what you will get done each day. Pull up your calendar and dedicate blocks of time to big projects, small projects, and breaks/lunch.
Measure Progress, Not Results
Hold yourself accountable to your long-term goals by measuring your progress in simple, effective ways. You have already scheduled ahead of time when you’ll tackle each task. Whether you want to measure in number of emails sent, number of words written, or number of doors knocked on, find a numerical value to keep track of your progress. You want to measure effort, not results (do not, for example, measure in number of sales, or dollars made) each day.
Check in with yourself at the end of each day to take stock of what worked and what didn’t work. Adjust accordingly. Schedule check-ins with yourself at the end of each week, month and quarter to monitor your own productivity on long-term projects and goals.
Stop Pressuring Yourself To Be Inspired
You don’t have to be extremely inspired or invested in a project in order to get it done. What you’re feeling doesn’t need to align with your productivity. Remember that you can feel totally uninterested and unmotivated and still move forward on a project. Sometimes the simple pressure of a deadline can overpower your disinterested feelings, but the key is to train yourself to do work even when you don’t feel like it. Let’s face it: sometimes you don’t feel like brushing your teeth, but you still have to. You don’t have to put your heart and soul into it, just push through.
Change Your Environment (Willingly or UnWillingly)
There’s a fair chance that what you’re working on is fairly tedious, and disinterest naturally breeds lack of motivation. The beauty of having your own business is that you can work from wherever you want, so go work somewhere new – don’t chain yourself to a desk in order to force yourself into focus. You’ve heard this advice before, but take a stroll – this has been proven to charge up your creativity and improve your brain function.
You can plan out your work schedule all you want, but we all know that things come up, plans change, and lots of stuff doesn’t get accomplished. Ride with it. Did your partner’s great uncle pass away, and now you have to suddenly get on a plane to Kansas City? Use the change of plans to re-approach that tedious project, and create a deadline for yourself: see what you can get done by the time you board the plane.
We aren’t talking about saying no to really fun Friday night plans to stay home and brainstorm marketing ideas for your product. We are talking about how to balance and prioritize your work when you have a lot on your plate, and it all appears urgent. Look at your to-do list and really consider each requirement: is it really required? What is the effort-result ratio? There are plenty of tasks, you’ll see, that other people might ask you to do for them, and might take a ton of work yet yield little result for you.
This is also a useful approach if you find yourself procrastinating, or spending too much time on one project over another. Step back and seriously measure how saying yes to another founder’s request to edit their marketing emails, or tweaking your website for an hour, contributes to your happiness, health, and the well-being of you and your business. Sometimes we really want to do things that we really don’t need to: remember, feelings don’t always connect to getting things done.
Not convinced? Watch this video on the power of No, how to turn down others’ requests to make room for more worthwhile opportunities.
Now stop procrastinating and give yourself the tools to move you and your business forward!