Procrastination:Stop the Self-Sabotage
& Ensure Your Entrepreneurial Success
One of the biggest challenges faced by entrepreneurs today is procrastination. Success often suffers at the hands of procrastination because, when faced with some new concept or task that we are perhaps new to, don’t fully understand, or feel overwhelmed by (which is often the case when entrepreneurs are in the process of building a new business) we put off those negative feelings for the feeling of instant relief we get by procrastinating.
How often do you find yourself sitting at your desk at the end of the day, feeling as though you “worked” your butt off all day, but have accomplished absolutely nothing.
Dr. Timothy Phychle, associate professor of psychology at Carleton University and author of The Procrastinators Digest, as well as producer of the podcast Iprocrastinate, has been doing research on and writing about procrastination for over ten years and offers up a number of tips to help get out of the self sabotaging procrastination trap and get going.
- Awareness. As they say with many things, the first step to recovery is awareness of the problem. When you make a conscious effort to notice procrastination as it begins you take a big step toward overcoming procrastination and forming new habits that encourage accomplishment. Note when you have an intention to complete a task but don’t follow through and also take note of the permission giving thoughts or excuses you give yourself for not moving to complete tasks.
- Calculate the costs of procrastination. When you sit down and clearly identify the costs as well as the benefits of what you don’t do and what you do, it enables you to maintain motivation when you attempt to make changes in your daily habits. Generally we tend to think of the punishing aspects of getting things done late, but when we take time to identify the positivity of getting things done in a timely manor we create an approach goal and that helps to maintain motivation.
- Phychle says, “procrastination is a form of self- regulation failure”. In other words, we put off or procrastinate as a way to avoid tasks that feel aversive in order to avoid the negative feelings that are associated with the task. For example, if a task is one that feels overwhelming because it is boring or because we feel some anxiety around our ability to complete it, we may procrastinate as a way of gaining some temporary relief. Unfortunately, we trade that instant gratification of relief for longer-term problems. Phychle suggests that you actively access positive motivating resources from your inner landscape such as a desire for success.
- Recognize that your mind might be lying to you. Your head will likely tell you things like, “I’ll feel more like doing it tomorrow”. You won’t. The truth is you don’t need to feel like doing it to get it done; no matter what “it” is. All you really have to do is get started. In fact, you may need to “just get started” several times a day; that’s fine. Just do it. Once you do (no matter how many times) you will have “primed the pump” so to speak and that will enable you to eventually keep going.
- Identify your most commonly used set of excuses or self-deceptions. Write them down. This exercise helps to illustrate how silly some of them are. Once you have awareness of these, you will be better able to set what phychle calls “implementation intentions” in response to your excuses. Implementation intentions are a sort of an if-this-then-that response. For example, If I recognize myself using this excuse then I will do this or that to move beyond the procrastination mode and just get started on something.
- Be conscious that feelings of good intentions can be a procrastination trap. If you give in to procrastination by saying, “I’ll do it tomorrow” you will get some immediate relief from putting off a daunting task now, plus you’ll get the positive feeling of setting goals. This is a tricky trap. We imagine our future selves accomplishing the task effortlessly and feeling great. Unfortunately this kind of thinking is often overly optimistic and unclear; the minute details are often lost. We think, “tomorrow or next week” we’ll have “plenty of time”. We fail to take into account that tomorrow and next week will never be a blank slate; they have as many distractions and unexpected situations as today.
- Make well-planned implementation intentions. Write them down. Define what moves a goal intention into action. Get very clear about the if this, then that format. For example, write down, “If I have a thought like ‘I’ll just do it tomorrow’, then I’ll just get started or do something toward accomplishing the goal for 5 minutes”
- We tend to overestimate the difficulty or painfulness of a task. Getting started can, and often does, change our perception. Ultimately, as a result of just getting started, progress on our goals leaves us feeling optimistic and energized.