It’s 3pm on Tuesday afternoon, and you’ve just sat down to tackle some overdue admin. Your mind begins to wander, and after spending 15 minutes reflecting on that client call you had earlier, another 15 minutes checking your emails and phone, and a full half hour researching that new equipment you’re thinking about buying; you realise it’s now 4pm and there are at least half a dozen things you must do before you call it a day – and none of them are your admin… so you put it off to tomorrow.
Sound familiar? If so, you’re not alone… procrastination is one of the biggest challenges facing any small business owner.
More than mere laziness, procrastination is our desire for immediate gratification impairing our ability to focus on longer term goals. This usually results in us actively putting off tasks, even though we know it will cost us in the future. That cost could be a deadline blowout, a missed opportunity, or even lost business.
While there are no sure-fire ways to prevent procrastination, there are things you can do to manage it. So, next time you’re feeling unfocused or stuck on a particular activity, we recommend you:
Know your limitations:
For most people, there’s a distinct pattern to their procrastination. Whether it’s specific activities you put off, certain customers you avoid, or set times each day your energy fades, identifying your ‘triggers’ can help you plan around them. For example, if you know you lose focus mid-afternoon, plan less mentally taxing activities for this time.
Focus on quick wins:
As the old saying goes, the journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. By breaking down your tasks and finding small activities you can knock over easily, you start to build the momentum required to tackle larger, more complex activities. And, even if you don’t manage to get up to full speed, at least you’re making some progress.
Embrace technological solutions:
The beauty of being in business in 2020 is that, if there’s something you struggle with, there’s sure to be an app that can help. From programs to help you manage distractions (like Freedom) to systems that automate your accounting (we use Xero), there are a myriad of technologies that can help you focus on your core business.
Positive reinforcement is one of the most effective ways to establish new behaviours. As such, it’s important to recognise when you manage to ‘push through’ and to celebrate that success. Even if it’s only mentally acknowledging a job well done, it can help give you a little extra drive next time you start to struggle.
Most importantly, if you do notice that you’ve been procrastinating, try not to worry about it too much. While it’s natural to regret the wasted time and missed opportunities, stressing about it will only make it worse. Instead, try to focus on what you can do differently in the future, to make sure you stay productive and on task.