Procrastination is a difficult subject. It’s an issue that we all struggle with, some of us more than others. To be successful as a entrepreneur you’ll have to work on improving your self-discipline and holding yourself accountable in an effort to avoid procrastination. To this day it’s something that I struggle with. When dealing with this menace, it’s important to know how to identify it, how to overcome it, and how to avoid procrastination in the future.
It can be incredibly difficult to identify when you’re properly prioritizing your tasks and when you’re just putting something off. While all tasks are not made equal and we have responsibilities that dictate what tasks need to be done right away and which can be postponed, it’s important to be mindful of when something has been postponed several times.
If I’m putting something off too long, there is normally some anxiety that is associated with that task. I’ll make a commitment to myself to start to make progress, only to find myself responding to an email or watching a youtube video, completely distracted. Maintaining some form of a log (more on that later) is the best way to keep track of things you said you wanted to accomplish but didn’t and also things that you didn’t want to accomplish but did. Items in the second category would include things like emergencies or rush jobs that you received with little notice. If you find yourself accomplishing less than you think you should be or if you’re pushing tasks off without a good reason, you’re procrastinating.
The factors that motivate us differs from person-to-person, however, the trait that is common among of us is that we enjoy instant gratification over delayed gratification. Often, larger tasks get put off because they may span multiple days, weeks, or months without getting the ’emotional hit’ of knowing we’ve accomplished something. Because of this, we’re naturally inclined to load our calendars up with several smaller tasks that we know we can complete and feel good about ourselves.
To combat this, I like to break any task or goal that will take longer than a couple hours into several sub-tasks. It feels good to be able to mark items off and see that I’m 40%, 60%, 90%, 100% done with a project. Seeing the light at the end of the tunnel keeps me motivated to see things through to the finish.
Similar to the idea of overcoming instant-gratification, it’s also helpful to promise yourself rewards to make the wait that much better. Chocolates, luxury purchases, and other items are common for people to reward themselves with. It’s a good idea to choose whatever may be necessary to get you motivated. This becomes an even more fruitful strategy when you combine it with purchasing something that’s good for you, such as books or new office supplies that you’ve been needing.
Lastly, sometimes the best thing to do is to walk away. I know. I just suggested giving in, but it becomes an effective strategy if you give in with specific parameters. For instance, if I’m having a hard time focusing, I like to take a 15 minute break and do the dishes, sweep the floors, polish a pair of shoes, or some other menial cleaning task to get focused. The key here is the distraction I choose to engage in has a definite time-limit, doesn’t require a lot of concentration, and is physical in nature.
The best way to overcome procrastination is to avoid it in the first place. There are several methods you can use. One of the easiest and most effective that I’ve found is to schedule my day. I use todoist, trello, and google calendar to provide a framework for my day the night before. That way, as soon as I wake up, I know what needs to be done and when. Things will still come up and tasks sometimes have to get moved around, however, just having a plan makes it easier to hold myself accountable. Noticing that I’m letting tasks go doesn’t feel good and there’s a bit of a productivity ‘buzz’ I get when I check items off of todoist along the way.
Focus can be thought of as procrastination repellant. When I really need to hunker down and get something done I’ll be sure to turn my phone on silent and keep anything that may make any noises away from me. Some people like to listen to music while they work, but, anything with lyrics can be distracting. It’s basically the same thing as someone talking to you and your mind will start to wonder. Listening to something such as coffitivity, or a standalone white-noise machine such as this one is incredibly effective especially when dealing with something that requires creative problem solving or anything design related.
Lastly, scheduling your most challenging tasks first thing in the day can help to increase the likelihood that you’ll get them done. Making decisions and work of any type is taxing on the brain, and it’s easier to make excuses that we can’t do something after our brain has already been pushed to its limits for several hours.
In conclusion, procrastination is a menace but it’s a manageable one. With some simple mindfulness, tracking, and planning it’s easier to overcome.