Are you a business owner with a million great ideas that you never implement? Do you have trouble keeping up with your marketing plan? Was there snow on the ground the last time you sent an email newsletter? If you said yes to any (or all) of these, know that you’re not alone. Business procrastination is a real thing, and it can suck the life out of you and your business if you let it.
So let’s do something about it, shall we? Here’s how to bust business procrastination right where it hurts.
1. Start with just one thing. When you’re faced with a to-do list a mile long, it’s easy to say, “I’ll never get through it, so why even bother trying,” and then the next thing you know, you’ve spent 45 minutes on YouTube looking at cute cat videos. BURN THE TO-DO LIST. Seriously, the first step in any endeavor is starting with just one thing.
Lasso one of those ideas in your head or select one item from the list and focus on that for the next week. Maybe it’s writing a weekly blog post. Fine. Do that, and you’re done. Maybe it’s spending 15 minutes a day on Twitter. Great, do that, and you’re done. The goal here is to turn that one thing into a habit. Once it becomes a habit, add in something else. Do this gradually and incrementally until you are managing your to-do list, not the other way around.
2. Prioritize. If you’re a fan of inspirational business books, you’ve probably read or at least heard of Brian Tracy’s Eat That Frog. The concept comes from something Mark Twain once said about how if you start the day by eating a frog, you’ll have the satisfaction of knowing that that’s probably the worst/hardest thing you’ll have to do all day (and, thus, the rest of the day becomes a lot easier, or, should we say, more palatable). Tracy used it as the foundation of his procrastination-busting book (which you should most definitely check out).
We like the “eat that frog” concept because it gets at the core of prioritization. Every day, identify the hardest and/or most important task and tackle it first. Once you get it out of the way, and you get in the habit of doing this, you’ll see how much easier the other items on your list are.
You can combine this approach with our first recommendation. So make your “frog” the one thing you choose to do, and that’s it. At least, to start. Do this for a week or two, and then add in something else.
Bottom line: prioritize and tackle things from hardest to easiest whenever possible.
3. Let go. Repeat after us: “I can’t do it all. I can’t do it all.” This is not a defeatist’s mantra. No, it’s a realistic and liberating mantra. Because once you accept—and even embrace—the fact you can’t do it all, it takes a whole boatload of pressure off your back.
Be realistic with your time and with what you’re willing to commit to. Get in the habit of under-committing, instead of over-extending yourself. You can always add on other tasks later. This process of letting go will involve getting comfortable with a powerful, two-letter word: No. Practice saying it. Often.
4. Delegate, delegate, delegate. Once you “let go” and realize you can’t—and shouldn’t—do everything, you’ll have an easier time delegating tasks to others. This is a powerful step: it empowers your employees, because it shows you’re putting your trust in them to get the job done. It’s also showing your ego and internal critic that you’re serious about delegating, and not because you’re lazy or because you can’t “handle” doing everything yourself, but rather because you value your own mental health and you value the people you have working for you.
5. Outsource. OK, so what if you’re a solo professional or you only have one or two employees who are already maxed out? How can you delegate? Say hello to outsourcing. Just about all tasks that a business owner faces, from bookkeeping to accounting to IT to office cleaning, can be outsourced.
Figure out what you don’t have time for and/or you absolutely hate doing and outsource it. If you’re worried about the cost, consider this: freeing up your time to sell more or serve more customers will bring in more cash, right?
You might not be able to outsource everything you want to right away. That’s OK. Again, approach it as you did number one. Choose one thing to outsource that will make your life so much easier and commit to it.
6. Create “sacred time” on your calendar. This is especially important if you share calendars internally with other people. Carve out space on your calendar for uninterrupted work time. One of the biggest issues with procrastination is distractions—ones that we do to ourselves (hello, again, cat videos) and the ones other people inflict on us (instant messages, calls, people dropping by the office).
Block out chunks of time on your calendar and treat it as sacred time. Here’s a secret, though: don’t label it “Joe’s Time” or “Joe’s sacred time” because people won’t necessarily respect it. Make up appointments if you have to. The goal here is for people to understand you’re busy so they won’t interrupt. Of course, YOU also need to understand that this is sacred time, which brings us to our next point.
7. Respect your own sacred time. Adding sacred time on your calendar is fine and dandy, but unless you plan on, you know, being productive instead of playing endless rounds of Candy Crush or reading the last 15 listicles on BuzzFeed, what’s the point? So do whatever it takes to make sure you get work done during this time:
- Close email and IM.
- Use an Internet blocker. Here are six that Mashable recommends.
- Practice The Pomodoro Technique (one of our favorites!) where you set a timer, work non-stop for 25 minutes, stop for five, and then start again.
- Change your scenery – if you’re not productive in the office because of all the potential distractions and fire drills, then get out. Hole up at a coffee shop, the library, or wherever you’re able to put your head down and work.
How do you manage procrastination? We’re always looking for new and innovative methods ourselves, so share away in the comments!