Procrastination is the bane of every entrepreneur's existence. Karen Lamb, a renowned author, once said: “A year from now, you may wish you had started today.”
And this fact applies not only to our business life but also to other aspects of our lives. Procrastination is the habit of postponing an urgent project by focusing on less crucial, more fun, and easy tasks. Not only will procrastination limit your potential, but it will also undermine your career. Furthermore, this habit could lower morale and even cause depression and job loss. Therefore, it's vital to implement proactive steps to avoid procrastinating.
Below are nine tips to avoid procrastination:
#1. Break Your Work Into Little Steps
You're likely to delay doing a task when you subconsciously find it overwhelming. So it's helpful to break down a complex project into smaller tasks. This allows you to focus on one task at a time. And if you still delay doing the job after breaking it down, you have to break it down even further.
Soon your project will be subdivided into simpler parts that you will be thinking, “these tasks are so easy that I may as well start doing them now!” For instance, if you decide to write a business proposal or plan, it can seem like an enormous task. But when you break it down into phases such as:
- Choosing a topic
- Crafting the outline
- Writing the content
- Editing/Proofreading, etc
The project will seem manageable and less overwhelming. Additionally, after you break down a complex project into more straightforward tasks, ensure you focus on the immediate stage. Then do it to the best of your ability, without thinking about the next steps. After completing the job, then move on to the next phase. It would help if you continued like this until you complete the whole project.
#2. Just Take The First Step
According to a famous quote by Martin Luther King, Jr: “you don't have to see the whole staircase; just take the first step.”
If you start looking too far into your project, it may seem like a big deal to start and complete it. Even though it's a good thing to make plans for your future, you must always focus on the present moment. So concentrate on taking the first step when starting any project. That's what's most important.
#3. Reward Yourself
Whenever you finish a small task, you feel a sense of satisfaction and accomplishment that can be a reward in its own right. Besides, this kind of reward will propel you to take other challenging areas of your business. Nevertheless, extra rewards will always motivate you.
Attach small rewards to each of the small tasks you complete or a bigger bonus when you finish several small steps. For instance, take a break, go to the beach, or celebrate with friends whenever you complete a task. You may fear the job itself, but the fun, on the other hand, can motivate you to get started.
#4. Get Rid Of Distractions
You or your employees will most times delay completing an urgent project because there are many distractions. These distractions include social media sites, emails, phone calls, and many more. As an entrepreneur, it's essential to get rid of all distractions when you are at work. That way, you can focus on an urgent job at hand. Besides, you will be able to ask yourself probing questions such as
- What do I need to do next?
- What can I do right now to move forward, even if it's just by a little bit?
- What's right in front of me?
Asking such questions will help you to move your business forward. It doesn't matter if it's inch by inch.
#5. Set Cues
You can utilize a tactic called “implementation intentions” to build new, positive habits which can help you avoid procrastinating. An implementation intention will commit you to engage in your preferred behavior anytime you get a specific cue. For instance:
- When your alarm clock goes off, you'll do yoga exercises to start the day.
- When you first switch on your office light, you'll work offline for a given period before checking your email.
- After dinner, you'll read for an hour.
Instead of procrastinating, use Implementation intentions to make progress. This method is helpful because it combines the action you want to take with something you do. Thus you become less dependent on your discipline or willpower.
#6. Allow Yourself To Be Imperfect
Do you know that perfectionists tend to procrastinate more often because they may think, “I don't have the resources or right skills to do this task perfectly?” Or “This task has to impress everyone; I will do everything perfectly.” Putting such high hopes on a project only increases the fear of messing up.
Moreover, procrastination thrives on perfectionism. You can overcome this mental block by allowing yourself to be human. So don't beat yourself up when you make honest mistakes. You can always review and refine the job later. Instead of trying to do every phase perfectly, think of them as steps to perfection. For example, write a business proposal now, proofread it, and correct it later.
#7. Do the Task That Scares You The Most Or Causes The Most Anxiety
Most people are anxious about one thing or the other. In business, an entrepreneur could be concerned about sales, while in management, this can involve disciplining or dismissing an employee. Also, in relationships, this could do with confronting a sad personal situation.
However, you will be more effective if you first deal with what is causing you the most significant emotional distress or fear in all cases. Doing this frees you mentally and emotionally and helps you move on and get other things done.
#8. Re-Clarify Your Goals
If you delay doing essential tasks for a long time, it could be due to a misalignment between your want and what you are doing at the moment. We often outgrow our business or personal goals as we learn more about ourselves.
It would be best if you got away from your place of work so you can take a nice short vacation. This will provide you enough time to reflect, ask probing questions, and re-clarify both your business and personal goals.
#9. Change Your Environment
Do you know that different environments can have different effects on a person's productivity? For example, take a look at your room or office. Do they make you want to work, or do they make you feel sleepy? If your workplace makes you want to sleep, then you have to try changing it. Ensure you keep in mind that an environment that motivates you to work can lose its impact over time. If such a case should happen, then you must consider changing things.
According to Denis Waitley, procrastination is the fear of success. He further said people delay doing things because they fear the responsibilities and success that will result if they complete essential tasks. If that sounds like you, don't give up on yourself. You can overcome procrastination! With these nine tips, you're already halfway there.