Remember the time you decided to take a 15 minute coffee break from work and sat down reading a newspaper in the cafeteria? Later on you got up feeling very well informed about current affairs but realized an hour had passed and you had to rush back to your desk to complete the tasks on your to-do list. Or the time you decided to clean your drawers on a weekday to search for a piece of paper and ended up redecorating the entire room with your son?
While both these exercises may appear fruitful at first, in practical terms they are not. The mark of an intelligent and result oriented person is discipline, and not just getting things done – but getting the ‘right’ things done. You might actually be a victim of procrastination.
Same is the case with running your own business. I have seen many promising entrepreneurs suffer due to this problem, myself included. Common symptoms include prolonging uncomfortable or challenging meetings such as auditors and creditors, habitually reporting to work late or leaving early, taking long breaks, getting stuck up on a task and refusing to move ahead resulting in accomplishing nothing. As the Japanese, who have practically invented the concept of ‘Just-in Time’ inventory systems put it: wrong decisions are better then late decisions.
So why do entrepreneurs procrastinate? How do you overcome this malice?
Step #1: Sort Out Your Priorities
Our mind consists of millions of neurons forming millions of connections every second. It is very easy to start day dreaming in the middle of a morning staff meeting. Your thoughts may not be on ‘what your spouse is cooking for dinner that day’ and instead you may actually be planning ‘your next meeting with a client’. Doesn’t seem problematic? Wrong! This type of procrastination is the worst kind because everyone suffers from it to some extent. You are ignoring important on hand tasks by going after more manageable, easier and ultimately less important tasks.
Ask yourself these two questions every time you feel the urge to shift your focus to a different task:
1- What is the most important problem that needs to be addressed?
2- Am I working on it? If not, then why not?
Granted, even small tasks and errands pile up to create a cumulative bad effect in the long run, but the immediate threat from a big task might see to it that you don’t last long enough in a workplace to see the adverse effect of ignoring smaller errands! All impressive people have been notorious for ignoring routine errands by giving precedence to bigger problems. A nuclear physicist is a good example of such a person. He will usually give precedence to solving a complex equation rather then shaving or dressing up for work. At the start of your day, always remember to make a to-do list in the order of priorities. It will keep the bigger picture in front of you and keep you on top of your game.
Step #2: Set up Your Own Deadlines and Rewards
Getting the job done on time is easy to confuse with doing a good job. The two are very different, even the brain chemistry of these two emotions is different. One deals with relief after a period of stress and the other deals with euphoria.
Once you have prioritized your work, it is time to set up personal deadlines that are stricter then the actual deadlines, tricking yourself to give the task the attention it requires while rewarding yourself with minor things like coffee breaks, catching up with co-workers or checking personal emails. The time you save can even be used to improve on the task or take a well deserved breather in a hectic schedule.
Step #3: Keep Yourself Motivated
Once you have started working in earnest, your productivity will tend to drop exponentially. Much can be said on the subject of employee motivation levels. Some even argue that employee motivation is a skill which initiated an entire genre of management studies called Human Resource Management. Broadly speaking, motivation is ‘the reason why people perform different tasks’. Demotivated employees will bicker about the most trivial issues, hold up work till the last moment, and not contribute to their full potential. An entrepreneur can be demotivated by lack of short-term rewards, long working hours and increasing bills.
It is important to keep yourself healthy, both emotionally and physically. Exercising regularly at least 3 times a week is important, especially for middle-aged people. Emotionally, it is very important for an entrepreneur to delve in a venture that is compatible with their lifetime goals and passions. Their startups must be a depiction of skills they are good at. This will ensure that they keep the longer objective of prosperity and growth always in front.
Step #4: Hold Yourself Accountable
This is another reason why many people procrastinate. Of course, for the sole proprietor this will be hard to deal with being the man behind the helm of affairs, but there are ways to deal with this issue as well. For the employees, research has shown time and again that even the most motivated ones tend to get laid back if there is not a proper check and balance mechanism.
The floor manager or the shift boss is rightly called so because he/she keeps an eye on the employees, always there to assist and always there to reprimand if someone gets out of line.
The employers should hold themselves accountable to their secretaries and administration managers. They should allow selected people to ask them directly about tasks that come under their boss’s jurisdiction. They should also give their office in-charge an emergency number where they can be reached at all times.
Following these steps in the order mentioned above is one of the most effective ways to keep the laid-back attitude in check even for the most determined procrastinators. So, the next time you report to work, start with Step#1 and then take it from there.
Here’s to your success!
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Go ahead! As long as you give full author attribution as follows:Business Growth Expert Yoon Cannon has helped thousands of CEOs, entrepreneurs & small business owners achieve dramatic results in sales, productivity and profits. Over the past 20 years, Yoon has started 4 other companies and sold 3 of them. She is the author of numerous articles published in major print media and magazines. She is also a popular keynote speaker. Get Yoon’s free video “How to Find Your WOW Factor” at https://www.ParamountBusinessCoach.com. Call Yoon direct at (215) 292-4947.
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