How to manage procrastination as a business owner
I have an important question for you:
Are you procrastinating right now?
Procrastination is something that we all deal with as business owners, and it can be something that can really affect our productivity - or at least our feelings about our own productivity on any given day.
Check out this video to learn more:
Listen to the audio:
How does procrastination affect our work?
Studies have shown that if we get distracted while we're working on something, and we switch our attention to whatever that distraction is, it can take us up to 30 minutes or more to get back to the thing that we were originally working on.
Now why is this particularly a problem for business owners? Well, we already have a schedule that is not necessarily structured in the way that a traditional job schedule would be structured. We are responsible for keeping ourselves on track. We decide for ourselves what's important and what isn't. We often set our own deadlines. So it's even more important for entrepreneurs versus people in a more traditional job to be able to regulate their time and their work, and curb procrastination whenever possible.
What causes you to procrastinate?
Let's dig deeper and find the source of your procrastination. I 100% guarantee that you are not just being lazy. There's something else deeper going on.
I find, personally, one of the most common things that makes me procrastinate is getting distracted. This can be from notifications for emails or other things that are connected to work but are not the particular tasks that I'm working on at that moment. Or it could be things like text messages or phone calls. Another common distraction is some sort of social media notification. It could even be things like getting a snack, or pets, other people - there are so many things that can distract you when you're working, right?
And that's okay! None of these things make you a bad person and all of these things are manageable. But let's say that distractions are not the thing that's causing your procrastination - what else could it be?
Sometimes when we procrastinate on a particular task or a particular project, it's because we feel overwhelmed. If you are putting off doing something because the scope of it makes you overwhelmed - the thought of even starting it overwhelms you or stresses you out - maybe that's the source of your procrastination.
Another possibility could be that you're procrastinating on a task that you really just don't want to do. It could be that you are bored in your work in general or this particular task is something that you find boring.
Another cause of procrastination could be perfectionism. I know that seems like a weird reason to procrastinate, but it's actually quite common.
How to manage distractions
How do we tackle all of these different causes of procrastination? The first thing to do is to spend some time examining your thoughts and your feelings and see if you can identify what the main cause is of your procrastination.
It might be more than one of these causes. If that’s the case, you may need to try multiple solutions until you find what works for you.
Let's say that you're procrastinating because you keep getting distracted. There are many things that you can do to try to limit your distractions. First, you could try going into a room by yourself and shutting the door, if you're in a space where you’re able to do that.
A very helpful strategy could be to turn off your phone notifications. I find if there's something I really need to focus on, the Do Not Disturb function is my friend. Along with this, closing other windows and tabs on your computer and turning off email and app notifications while working on a particular task can be very helpful.
Let’s say you need your phone for the thing that you're working on. In that case, you could also turn off notifications for specific apps, such as Instagram, if that's what's distracting you.
How to manage overwhelm
Let's say that the cause of your procrastination is that you feel overwhelmed by the task or project that you need to work on. The first thing that I would recommend is to try to break it down into smaller steps rather than getting completely stressed out by the big picture. See if you can break it down into the one or two things that you need to do next.
If it's truly something where you are not able to move past your sense of overwhelm, this may be a situation where you need some help. This could be someone to help support you while you complete that project. It could also be someone who takes those tasks off your plate completely.
I recommend considering some form of help if you are in such a state of overwhelm that you can't even move forward on that project.
How to manage lack of motivation or boredom
If you're procrastinating on something because you just don't want to do it. Maybe it's a task that you don't like. Maybe it's something that excited you when you first started working on it, but now it doesn't anymore. For whatever reason, you're dragging your feet because you just don't want to do it. So what do you do?
My first question to you would be: is this a thing that actually has to get done? If you prioritize your current to-do list and look at the things that are most important and are going to move your business forward, is this actually one of those things?
If it's something that is a recurring task that you consistently don't want to do, then you may need to consider another approach altogether or outsourcing that specific task. For example, let's say that it's a marketing task and it's something that you feel that you need to do regularly in order to promote your business, like engaging in Facebook groups. But you don’t love Facebook, so it’s something that you consistently find difficult to motivate yourself to do. You end up dragging your feet on it every week and you dread it. You hate it the entire time you're doing it.
Is this actually an effective marketing tactic?
Is it worth it to keep doing it?
Is it giving me the results that I need?
If the answer to these questions is yes, but the task continues to be something that you dread, then ask yourself if it would be worth giving that task to somebody else. Then you can continue to get those results, but you don't have to do it yourself.
If you are procrastinating because you are bored, there are a few things that you can do in that situation. Is there some sort of ritual that you can do to get yourself into the right mindset to do that task? This could be things like putting on some pump up music, making sure you've got a nice snack and a good beverage, and finding a good spot to work. Get yourself into the right headspace and psych yourself up a little bit.
Maybe there’s something that you can do to turn this task into a game so that you can kind of get yourself to do it and it's less of a drag. For example, when I’ve had recurring tasks that I found boring, I created a punch card for myself. For every day that I completed that task, I got a checkmark. When I got 10 checkmarks, I got to choose a reward, like takeout from my favorite restaurant or a manicure. This could be anything you want, as long as it’s something that you enjoy enough that it will motivate you.
Or, again, if there is a task that you find consistently boring, which means you don't want to do it every time it comes up, maybe that is something that you need to outsource.
How to manage perfectionism
A final cause of procrastination might be perfectionism. This can be kind of similar to the overwhelm situation, where you're so worried about getting it right or the things that could go wrong that it's preventing you from even starting. If that's the case for you, some sort of support might be an option to help you work through that.
If you’re looking for some strategies to try on your own, I would suggest things like setting a timer for particular tasks. For example, I know people who struggle to be on video, because they're worried about making mistakes and want to get it perfect. They might try to record a video and then have to do several takes before they're happy with the result.
If the task you are procrastinating on is producing some sort of content or ideas, like video, writing, audio, etc., I would encourage you set a timer and do as much as you can in that time. Sometimes I will set aside a chunk of time and try to record as many videos as possible in that time.
If there's something that I'm really struggling with, like a particular piece of content, I will set myself a timer to finish that specific piece of content and that's the amount of time and attention I'm giving to it. It may not be 100% perfect by the time that timer goes, and that's okay. Honestly, it's better to get it out into the world than to wait for it to be 100% perfect and have it sit on the back burner forever because you're not entirely happy with it.
Giving yourself that boundary around your time and the amount of attention that you're allowing yourself to devote to that particular task can really help you cut down on your perfectionism. It encourages you to move on to the next task, rather than focusing on one thing and nitpicking it forever.
Do you suffer from procrastination? What are some techniques that you use to get more done and get through those procrastination periods? Let me know down in the comments or feel free to reach out.