Procrastination, its one of the biggest challenges a marketer or entrepreneur comes up against, its that sneaky, wasteful monster that sneaks up on you and steals your time, often without you consciously realizing it.
Its no coincidence I’m writing my first blog post since February around this topic! Sure I have had some excuses as to why its taken this long to add a new post, I’ve been involved in a lot of other projects etc, but the main reason is… the procrastination monster got me!
So I thought it would be a good idea to do a post around this topic, to help both myself and hopefully you folks kick the procrastination monster in the goullies!
First lets start with a definition of procrastination.
Procrastination is the practice of carrying out less urgent tasks in preference to more urgent ones, or doing more pleasurable things in place of less pleasurable ones, and thus putting off impending tasks to a later time – Wikipedia
From personal experience, I think the statement “carrying out less urgent tasks in preference to more urgent ones” could be redefined as “carrying out less urgent tasks or doing swfa” (swfa for those that may not know is an abbreviation for a rather crass, but perfect term for doing nothing).
Why Do We Procrastinate?
The reasons behind procrastination may seem obvious at first, but its good to get a clear understanding of why we procrastinate, so we can recognize the symptoms of impending procrastination and then go about thwarting its insidious hold on us.
The main reasons we procrastinate are
- Overwhelm – A major task can often make us feel overwhelmed, especially if there is a lot of perceived complexity involved. Having too much to do can lead to overwhelm paralysis where we just keep putting things off as we don’t think they are manageable.
- Underestimating our abilities – This is a killer, tell yourself if someone else has done it before, or is doing it now, there is no reason why you cant as well.
- Avoidance of tasks that are “difficult or “hard” – this one is kind of a combination of overwhelm and underestimating our abilities. Having said that it can also be an excuse not to try, why put in all that effort when the task is just to difficult for us to successfully do.
- No time – another excuse not to start certain projects etc.
- Indecisiveness – this is one that is related to being a perfectionist. A perfectionist wont decide on a course of action until they are sure there will be a successful outcome. In business as in life there are no guarantees, by all means do some research into which choices you should make, but at the end of the day decide on a course of action and don’t look back.
- Discomfort / pain – below I go into the pain rational a little more, but these two emotions are
At the heart of it we are pleasure and pain beasts, that is to say we avoid pain as much as possible, unfortunately this usually results in avoiding pain in the short term (the task) and creating more pain in the long term, a backlog of stuff to get finished, pulling all niter’s etc. If you can rewire yourself to look at the long term pain caused by not completing tasks and focus on the long term pleasure you will get by going through some short term pain (doing the work right now) you will be much better placed to avoid procrastination.
The good news is a lot of this exists in our head, if we can ignore the inner voice and simply get on with the task we often find its much easier than anticipated.
Eat Your Frogs – The Way I Overcome Procrastination
Bryan Tracey has a great book called Eat Your Frog, it basically espouses the virtues of taking your hardest task, making it your first task for the working day and not leaving it until it is complete. The way I do this is to create a list of tasks every night that I want to get to the next day. I then put a number next to them with 1 being the highest priority. Tasks with a 1 next to them are those that will benefit me, my business and my customers the most, they also are usually the hardest tasks, the ones we are most likely to keep putting off.
Then the next day, my first task’s are those with a 1 next to them, I pick one and work on it until its completed, once all 1’s are completed I will onto anything with a 2 next to it. It may take days or even weeks to get to 3’s and 4’s but often these will end up being a number 1 on a later day or they may not even be that important. The bottom line is make sure you do the most beneficial tasks first.
Procrastination is the bad habit of putting of until the day after tomorrow what should have been done the day before yesterday. ~ Napoleon Hill
Eating a frog is an unpleasant task (unless you like frog legs!), hence the metaphor. I find myself saying each morning, come on, time to eat your frogs!.
Getting your hardest tasks done first, will help you soar in your business as well as ensure success and make you feel dam good.
Quick tips to Overcoming Procrastination
- Don’t be a perfectionist
- Just start, do anything scribble notes on a pad etc, in no time you will be in the “flow” of work
- Remove distractions – take the phone off the hook, close Facebook, turn the TV off… stay focused!
- Create daily prioritized task lists – plan your day the night before, create a hierarchy by numbering your most important task with a 1 next to it, place a 2 next to the next most important task etc
- Break each tasks into manageable small tasks that are easy to tick off as you go along.
- Do important tasks first and don’t stop until they are done.
- Don’t over think the problem – I cant stress this enough, just look a the next “to do” thing on your list and dive in.
- Reward yourself – Give your self rewards for completing significant tasks.
- Keep a sticky note on the side of your computer monitor, with words like focus, discipline etc this will remind you to get back on track.
- Eat your frogs – there isn’t any real way around it, do your most pressing tasks first and you will feel so much better