Procrastination is a killer for business success, and it takes more than just time management to address
We all have done it. Putting off tasks until tomorrow that should have been completed today. Reading this may even be an example of your procrastination!
Procrastinating is a regular problem for many business owners, but understanding why you are holding back is important to choosing an appropriate response. It isn’t just a case of recognising important tasks or applying a time management system, but more one for shifting the mindset behind the problem.
In this blog I’ll be exploring why procrastination happens, and how you, as a business owner can start taking action sooner.
What are your barriers to getting underway?
It’s very common for hesitation and delay in action to be misinterpreted as laziness in our employees, and yet, as business owners we tend to self justify doing so ourselves more easily.
More often than not, the cause of procrastination, or a delayed start on activity isn’t laziness. It is a combination of other factors.
Some of the common ones are listed below:
- A lack of connection with purpose – not understanding or valuing why an action truly matters
- A lack of confidence in capability
- An expectation of failure
- A fear of criticism
- Self sabotage
- A need for perfectionism
- Just in time mindset (last minute heroes)
- Mental health
- A lack of connection with any true sense of urgency.
The last is the one I want to focus on in detail within this blog, as the others have more articles written about them, and many remain barriers because the urgency to resolve them is also lacking.
Why do we often lack TRUE urgency?
When we look at most of the activities we undertake in life, they aren’t urgent in and of themselves. Almost all of them can be deferred a little while without significant consequence.
This is true both in business settings as well as domestic ones.
MOST tasks are not mission critical for completion now or even today. (Although timings do still matter).
If they were, our lives would be extremely stressful!
However, the absence of a sense of personal internal urgency can make a huge difference to your rate of business success, and to your application and engagement with the driving activities. Changing the sense of urgency can increase motivation, focus, determination, and resilience to distraction and procrastination.
Read any guide to business success and you’ll discover a strong focus on time management, goal clarity, and purpose. All of these are critical factors, and I have written extensively on all three within my own books before. So what is the difference when it comes to personal urgency which helps overcome procrastination?
- Time management is critical for balance and efficiency
- Goal clarity is important to avoid wasted effort, resources and time
- Purpose is important for energy levels and creating follow-ship in others.
BUT personal urgency is about getting the right actions done as soon as you practically can… all the time.
What is personal urgency based upon?
As human beings we have developed based mainly on an ‘as required’ basis. Our strides forward in technology, and in business have often been a matter of pain avoidance or reduction rather than the achievement of potential.
As individuals we tend to do things when they are needed and not before. This is true even in larger scale projects. Whilst planning and preparation is done, the deadlines tend to be defined as ‘when required by’ rather than ‘what is the potential best finalisation date’. This does prevent too much disappointment as often when you shoot for the stars you do end up hitting the moon, and a degree of wiggle room can be handy in such situations.
When it comes to internal drive however, and the personal urgency that results, this wiggle room benefit works as a penalty. Every time we defer an activity, or put off the progress until later, we are deferring or reducing our potential.
Personal urgency isn’t based upon requirement, it is connected to potential… and we were told at school to always aim to work to our potential. The problem is we discarded that advice, and worked more often to requirements than aspiration.
The good news is that there are some things you can do to change that mindset!
How to shift your mindset from ‘what’s required?’ to ‘what’s possible?’
This is a huge shift, and it doesn’t often happen overnight.
Sometimes it can come through a shift of perception on life.
A good example of this is in the workplace performance and attitude of new parents. It is remarkable how many find their focus shifts and their career progression accelerates on the arrival of a new child. This is often linked to the direct need for extra income, but in my experience, it also comes from something deeper. A desire to be someone their kids can be proud of, who did everything they could to provide a great life for them.
It changes their purpose, and where they may have been cruising for a while beforehand, now there comes an internal urgency to deliver their best game.
I have also seen this happen for business owners following health scares, or other significant life events such as bereavement.
Is there a way to achieve this shift without the need for a dramatic change in life circumstance?
Yes is the answer, but to do so isn’t totally comfortable. Take a deep breath and read on.
You don’t have as long left as you think to make it happen!
It’s a dark topic to consider, but none of us are getting any younger. For many of us, the remaining work years are quickly reducing, but our intended retirement years are actually extending (as life expectancy, medication and so forth advance).
What this means is that the ratios are working against you in terms of the need to deliver results from your business. You have less time to do it, and more of a penalty should you not succeed.
Take this example. Most humans live around 80 years in fair health. This is 4,000 weeks (80 years x 50 weeks roughly per year). This is not very long in real terms.
Of those 80 years, we tend to study for the first 20, and most then hope to retire by around 60 (if we are able to). Many do work longer I appreciate, but here we’re talking about what we’d like, not what we have to do because we didn’t succeed as planned!
This means 40 years of productive ‘direct’ earning (i.e. not from investments, inheritance etc), which needs to pay for (at least) 60 years of living. That’s the simple rub of it.
What should you do with the time you have? (clue it's not procrastinating!)
When a person earns enough to live today, but isn’t saving enough for tomorrow, it creates long term risk.
There is a danger that they will be reliant purely upon state pension, or will have to sell assets such as their home to pay for care towards then end. It is quite likely that they will not be able to holiday, provide inheritance gifts for their grandchildren, or provide support to their children beyond their working years.
All of this is potentially very frustrating, and emotionally charging.
By contrast, become successful in business earlier, and the excess cash you make can be pumped into investments, assets, and other areas of enjoyment. You can build a rainy day fund, trusts for your children and grandchildren, stack a pension for later life security, support a charity or do anything else you want.
If you are successful enough you can even choose to stop working early and travel the world or do nothing at all. Financial freedom provides security, reduces stress and allows for options on what to do, where, when and for whomever you like. That’s a big deal.
So here is the point…
How many weeks of your 4,000 in life have gone already?
How many remain?
How many of the remaining weeks do you have left in a proper earning capacity?
What do you REALLY want to achieve during those, that will provide for the ones left after?
Now I’d like you to consider your view on those items, and then answer this simple question:
Is tomorrow (or later), or today the best time to get started?
When I first heard this, I initially found it a bit depressing, but then I realised; it wasn’t getting better just by thinking and not doing. It motivated me to just get on with it. Take out the excuses for delay, and do what needs to be done.
I hope the same impact will come for you!