Putting things off. We all do it. For some in fact, it’s an art-form. There were times when I had a to-do list and then a list of things I would get to ‘much later’ so it didn’t clog up my to-do list. Like that list was ever going to get done, phhhttt! Then, a couple of years ago, something shook my vision of how much of ‘later’ there was left in life. It was personal to me and in the form of surgery for a fast growing malignant melanoma. A quiet cancer not talked about as much as others, and simply deadly if left unchecked. So between diagnosis and surgery there was a little reflection on my part on just whether I had done things I wanted to do in life before life was possibly taken away before I was ready, and although in this case I was fortunate to have been able to get the help to stop the melanoma in it’s tracks, those thoughts were still there. I realised my life had been full of procrastination!
So there was my opportunity, my golden moment of choice. I could choose to sit and cower in a corner and hope the C word did not visit again, and cry about the fact it had visited at all, or I could see this as a door opening, and go through it. I could see it as a chance to stop procrastinating about things that either I found hard to do, didn’t feel I had time to do, or didn’t have the money to do. The opportunity for me to do things that I valued, and spend time with people that made me feel good, and do the parts of my business I loved, they were the open door I chose to walk through. On a personal level, I made some big changes that included me not putting off dealing with a nasty fear of heights any longer which had a cascading effect on my life including changing my relationship with my horse, and finding a passion for public speaking. You can ready a story I wrote for the Confident Rider blog here. On a business level I made some big changes and that included doing some public speaking (which I LOVE, I know, I am a freak!) and launching this new business formally after I had been doing this kind of things ‘informally and unpaid’ for quite a few years already.
But now I see procrastination coming to haunt a lot of my clients and friends time and time again, ‘oh I must get to that’ and ‘yeah, I wish I had time’, ‘and oh, I will get my head around that one day’ I hear that all the time. It’s easy to say, we all do it, I am not perfect either, I think I said it yesterday! The important thing here is not whether you are going to die tomorrow, it’s whether you are doing the things you should be doing now or putting them off and that goes for life as well as business! If you read my blog about the paralysis of indecision (here it is) you already know that the two subjects overlap. Those that have procrastination down to a fine art are often also incredibly good at not making decisions. One is hard enough, if you have both together, no wonder you always feel under pressure and behind the eight ball!
How is this relevant to running a business? Well, think of it this way. Ideally, you need to be all round happy and content in life and business, right? Do what you love, and love what you do? It’s not all about rainbows and unicorns, but why can’t they play a little part in life? Well, that’s what I am all about anyway, I see no point having a fancy pants job if all you do is look out the 37th floor office window and wish you were doing something else, every day. If you put things off, they don’t get done. It’s as simple as that. Sorry to break it to you but the magic fairy wand doesn’t come and hand things to you, you have to take the action to make things happen. This is where the cross over happens from the last blog. I said (and I quote) “I talk about GSD mode often. It’s something I learned from my own mentor, and it has been a really important lesson for me in small business. Years ago, in spending time with her, I realised she was a bold decision maker, she made decisions and then just Got Stuff Done (OK, sometimes the S stands for a different word that is not Stuff…) and I quickly decided I would become more like that and set about to make that conscious decision to be in GSD mode as often as possible.’ The point is, there is no procrastination going on there. We talk about something one day and the next day, BAM, it’s all happening.
Procrastination is all about doing the less important, less difficult, less urgent things before you do the more important/urgent things. It’s a senseless waste of time, and we all know it, but it can be really hard to get out of the habit. Here’s a few tips to start procrastinating less.
Make a list and prioritise it.
In my Dealing with Overwhelm blog I wrote about making a list and the same goes for procrastination. Having a list of things you need to do and then deciding which of those things are most important is a good start for you to deal with putting things off. Colour code it, use pages in a book and put coloured tabs on them, number them, seriously, use animal pictures, elephant for important, dog for somewhat important, mouse for not important if you must. I am not going to tell you there is only one way to do it because that’s just not true. Find the way that works for you and do that.
What is stopping you?
Ask yourself that question. Why are you putting it off? Identifying a reason for your procrastination is also a great step towards dealing with it. Once you have worked out a reason, then you can start to look for a solution. ‘But there is no reason, I just put stuff off for no reason’ I hear you reply? Rubbish. Dig deeper and be honest with yourself. There is always a reason, you are just fluffing over it in order to avoid dealing with it. I can’t hand you the answer on a silver platter you might have to work to find it. You owe it to yourself to do that though.
Remind yourself of the benefits.
If you need to, remind yourself why you should be doing the thing you are putting off. Write down a list of things that will come from you doing the thing. Picture how it will feel to have done it, is it relief it’s done, a sense of achievement, financial gain, confidence you got from doing it, the accountant stops emailing you multiple times asking for those pesky figures? What is the end result and outcome you will get from doing this thing or things you are putting off?
Act on things.
I just talked (not about work) to a gorgeous friend on the phone who I know has been overwhelmed in her business for a while now. I know this friend. She will look at the email and close it half read because something exciting happens in the yard she wants to watch, or the kids get home from school, or the horses need feeding. She has a LOT on her plate right now and she fills every waking moment of her day with ‘stuff’, just sometimes not the ‘right stuff’ for her to be able to feel a sense of calm and control! She might come back to it later tonight but then realise she should maybe email a few clients to update them, then flick to my email one more time before she realises her brain is fried from a massive full on day, and she will just think about it tomorrow. She will forget, I will try to remember to remind her but she will be down the stables when I text her, and so on and on the procrastination goes. It’s not a deliberate thing, it’s not a fault in her or any of us that ever procrastinate, it’s just a set of circumstances that surround us. So my suggestion to her (if I can get her to the workshop!) will be to not even open her emails until she is in a position to give it the time she needs to make a decision and then just boldly act on that decision. I would say ‘Just do it’ but Nike stole my thunder…
(And just a note, I just texted her and mentioned that I am writing this blog and she inspired a little of it and she replied saying “I am the ‘gosh darn’ (insert a stronger term there) QUEEN of procrastination”. I hope I can help her remove that crown sooner rather than later…)
Here’s the short and curly of it. You are wasting time. Get on with it, stop putting things off, and go do them. Take one big action step in the next 24 hours that you have been putting off and email me and tell me about it and how it felt to finally do it. I promise, it will feel good, but I want you to tell me that so I know you are listening!
Yes. You can.